CORRECTED: The state and national unemployment rates in the last paragraph have been corrected. They were previously reversed.
The Triangle’s unemployment rate remained flat in October, at 6.4 percent, even as the region gained 6,000 jobs, the biggest monthly jobs gain all year.
The area’s jobless rate has gradually fallen from a year ago, when it was 7.5 percent. It is now at a level last seen five years ago when the nation was descending into a major recession.
But it’s only since the summer that the Triangle’s jobless rate showed marked improvements and the region posted significant monthly job gains. Overall, the Triangle has added 16,100 jobs in the first 10 months of 2013 – most of that since August.
“It’s really accelerated,” said economist James Kleckley at East Carolina University. “What we’ve seen in the past several months is a positive turnaround.”
The region is on track to add 25,000 jobs after year-end revisions are factored in, said Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner.
That would put the Triangle ahead of last year’s gain of about 20,000 jobs and position the area for continued growth in 2014, further chiseling away at the jobless rate, he said.
“We are becoming somewhat more optimistic about the outlook for 2014,” Vitner said. “We see the economy gaining momentum as the drag from government cutbacks subsides and housing continues to gradually gain momentum.”
October’s monthly figures were released by the N.C. Department of Commerce and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo.
The eye-popping gain of 6,000 jobs, more than half of them in government hiring, is the Triangle’s largest since January 2012, when the region gained 7,600 jobs. The job gain estimates come from small samples of local businesses and fluctuate widely from month to month.
The Triangle already has more jobs today than it did at its peak of employment before the recession hit almost six years ago, Vitner said. The Triangle lost 46,800 jobs in the recession, recovered that number of jobs by November 2012, and as of October has added a total of 65,100 jobs, he said.
Still, the number of unemployed people in the Triangle who were looking for work in October was 54,400, including nearly 30,000 in Wake County, nearly 8,900 in Durham County and 5,400 in Johnson County.
The growth in jobs was spread over a range of industries in the Triangle. In Durham and Chapel Hill, it included about 3,700 new jobs in education, health services and government.
In Raleigh, it included more than 6,000 new jobs in trade, transportation, utilities, professional and business services, as well as education, health services and government. Those gains were offset by losses in other sectors.
The Triangle’s jobless rate has for years been among the lowest in the state. In October, it was below the national average of 7.3 percent and the statewide average of 8 percent.