The Triangle’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in April even though the region added 1,900 jobs.
The jobless rate for April was 4.8 percent, the same as the revised number for March, based on data released Wednesday by the state Commerce Department’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte.
“Even though it’s not a uniformly good news story, it’s mostly good news,” said Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner. “I think most folks would consider 5 percent to be full employment. That’s where the country is trying to get to.”
Nationwide, the unemployment rate stood at 5.4 percent in April. North Carolina’s unemployment rate for the month was 5.5 percent.
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The Triangle’s jobless rate also is better than many of the state’s other metropolitan areas. Charlotte’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in April; the rate was 5.2 percent in Winston-Salem and 5.6 percent in Greensboro.
The Triangle continues to add jobs at a faster rate than the rest of the nation.
Including the 1,900 jobs added in April, the region’s employment has expanded by 20,600 jobs over the past 12 months. That’s a 2.4 percent increase, versus a 2 percent uptick for the nation as a whole.
“We have far more pluses than minuses,” Vitner said. “SAS announced they are building a new building. ... We are seeing stronger residential and commercial construction.”
Still, “there have been some cutbacks,” he added, noting that “Lenovo made some cuts.”
Lenovo reported in May that it was laying off 165 workers in the Triangle. A majority of the cutbacks involved former IBM employees that joined the company when Lenovo acquired a line of servers from the technology giant last fall.
N.C. State University economist Michael Walden views the expansion of jobs in April as a sign that “the Triangle is still growing, as we all expected, and growing at a rate that has not diminished.”
Walden is anticipating that some Triangle employers, particularly in the technology sector, could soon be complaining about the lack of a sufficient labor supply.
“Obviously, that’s a problem for some businesses, but I think that’s a sign of a healthy economy,” he said.
Walden envisions the Triangle’s unemployment rate falling to “the low 4s” by the end of the year. Vitner’s outlook is a little more cautious – he projects the rate will be “somewhere around 4.5 percent” at year’s end.
“The labor market has improved enough that we’re seeing job seekers come back into the labor force,” Vitner said. “People who had given up looking for a job a few years ago are now coming back into the work force.”
That impacts the unemployment rate because only those who are both jobless and actively seeking work are counted as unemployed.
In addition, Vitner added, strong population growth as young workers move to the Triangle from elsewhere in search of jobs will temper the downward swing of the unemployment rate.