NC jobless rate inches upward to 6.5 percent

The state’s unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 6.5 percent in July even though the state added jobs.

“From a jobs perspective, the numbers look pretty good,” said Well Fargo economist Mark Vitner.

The uptick in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, which was reported Monday by the N.C. Department of Commerce, was triggered by an increase in the ranks of the unemployed, which rose by 5,298 to 304,484.

Still, the state added 15,800 jobs during July, led by an increase of 4,800 jobs in the professional and business services sector and an additional 4,300 government jobs.

Those jobs numbers are based on a survey of employers, while the number of unemployed is derived from a survey of households. Both surveys are based on sampling, but the employer survey involves a larger sample, so economists tend to have greater confidence in those numbers.

“It’s not unusual that the two surveys give a conflicting picture of the economy,” Vitner said.

James Kleckley, an economist at East Carolina University, said the same phenomenon pushed up the unemployment rate in the neighboring states of Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Over the past 12 months North Carolina has added 89,000 jobs, a 2.2 percent increase. The state job growth has outpaced the growth in jobs nationwide during that span, Vitner said.

“The good news is we’re growing,” Kleckley said. “The bad news is, it’s still a soft growth. It’s not as rapid as we’d like to see.”

The only major sector of the state’s economy to lose jobs over the past 12 months was government, where employment dropped by 4,900.

“My suspicion is that it is mostly in local government, particularly in rural areas where the population is declining,” Vitner said.

The rise in the state’s jobless rate followed two consecutive months in which the unemployment rate stood at 6.4 percent. A year ago the state’s unemployment rate was 8.1 percent.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate continues to lag behind the national rate, which rose one-tenth of a percent to 6.2 percent in July. The Triangle’s unemployment rate in June, after being seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo, was 5 percent.

Vitner projects the unemployment rate will drop to about 6 percent by the end of the year as the state adds between 90,000 and 95,000 jobs.

“But growth will vary,” he said, adding that the Triangle is adding jobs significantly faster than the state as a whole.

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