The Triangle’s unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.3 percent in November as the region continued to add jobs.
The monthly survey of employers showed that the Triangle added 1,100 jobs after seasonal adjustments, boosting the net new jobs for the year up 2.3 percent, said Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte.
Vitner is confident, based on other economic data, that the survey numbers underestimated the job growth in the quarter. The numbers are extrapolated from a sampling of employers.
The separate monthly survey of households did show a larger jump in the number of people employed, which rose by 6,700.
The latest unemployment numbers were released by the state Department of Commerce and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo. The Triangle’s 4.3 percent jobless rate for November contrasts with the 5.0 percent statewide rate and the 4.6 percent national unemployment rate.
Job growth in the Triangle during the month was paced by the life sciences sector, which includes pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and the information technology sector.
“The medical device industry has been a source of very rapid growth,” Vitner said.
On the other hand, the leisure and hospitality sector, which was a strong source of growth earlier this year as hotels and restaurants added jobs, has slowed down recently.
Vitner projects that the Triangle’s unemployment rate will fall to 3.9 percent by the end of next year, a level it hasn’t reached since well before the 2008 recession struck. N.C. State University professor Michael Walden also predicts the local unemployment rate will fall below 4 percent in 2017.
Still, Vitner is forecasting that job growth will decelerate a bit next year.
“One of the reasons we’re expecting job growth to slow is, with the unemployment rate as low as it is, businesses are having a harder time filling open positions,” he said. “So the Triangle’s low unemployment rate ... is actually restraining job growth.”
The unemployment rate fell in November even though the labor force – which counts the number of people with jobs plus those who are actively seeking work – rose by 9,900 workers.
One factor in the labor force growth is that job seekers “in outlying areas are increasingly willing to come to Raleigh and Durham to find work,” Vitner said. “Se we have seen a big drop in unemployment in some of the outlying areas around Raleigh.”