On the Wall Street Journal web site, there is a story headlined “Rising Jobless Rates Are a Southern Mystery.” The story discusses the rise in the unemployment rate in Southern states, a trend that -- according to the authors -- has “left many economists scratching their heads, unable to explain why unemployment appears on the rise across the South while few other data -- unemployment filings, home purchases, corporate hiring -- suggests a sudden souring of the region’s economy.”
The poster child in this story was Georgia, where the unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent in August, up from 6.9 percent in April. It was pointed out that Georgia’s nonfarm payrolls rose 1 percent even as the unemployment rate went up. The rising unemployment rate has become a political issue in Georgia because the Democratic gubernatorial nominee has been using it to attack the incumbent Republican governor. The Republican governor, meanwhile, thinks the Obama administration’s Labor Department is manipulating the numbers - which Labor says is not so.
(Incidentally, he’s not the first politician to suggest funny business at Labor. President Nixon, in taped conversations in 1971, speculated the bureaucrats at Labor were out to get him.)
The Journal story, which appeared in print Monday, did not mention North Carolina, but a similar trend has been happening here. In a Sept. 19 story, N&O staffer David Ranii wrote:
“North Carolina’s unemployment rate rose in August to its highest point since the end of last year even as the state added jobs during the month.” The state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate went from 6.5 percent to 6.8 percent, after being as low as 6.2 percent in April.
How could the number of jobs added be up 12,500 in August, while the number of unemployed was up 10,404? One explanation: the numbers come from two different surveys. The jobs number comes from a survey of employers. The unemployed number comes from a survey of households. The employer survey, Ranii pointed out, is a larger sample, “so economists tend to have greater confidence in those numbers.”