The Triangle’s unemployment rate inched upward in May even though the region added 1,300 jobs during the month.
The local jobless rate rose to 5.4 percent in May, up two-tenths of a percentage point from April’s revised rate of 5.2 percent, according to data released Tuesday by the N.C. Department of Commerce and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo.
“In large part, that drift upward was caused by the number of unemployed going up,” said James Kleckley, an economist at East Carolina University. “What you are starting to see is that the number of people who have given up looking (for jobs) are looking again.”
Jobless workers who aren’t seeking work aren’t counted as unemployed by government statisticians.
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During May, the number of unemployed workers rose three times faster than the number of new jobs created, Kleckley said.
That’s good news in the sense that unemployed workers now have greater confidence that they can find jobs. But the bad news is that, based on the unemployment rate, “those jobs aren’t here yet,” Kleckley said.
The uptick in the Triangle unemployment rate mirrored a previously announced increase in the state’s unemployment rate for May to 6.4 percent. The state rate rose despite the addition of 5,700 jobs because nearly 19,000 additional workers entered the job market in search of work across the state.
“Relative to the rest of the state, the Triangle area ... is performing relatively well,” said John Quinterno of South by North Strategies, a Chapel Hill firm that focuses on economic and social policy.
That said, the region has a ways to go “to get back to where we were before the recession started,” Quinterno added.
The Triangle’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was below 4 percent for most of 2007.
A year ago, the Triangle’s unemployment was above 7 percent.