After falling to a six-year low in June, the Triangle’s unemployment rate rose last month even though the region enjoyed strong job growth.
The region’s jobless rate climbed three-tenths of a percentage point to 5.3 percent in July, according to data released Wednesday by the state Department of Commerce and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo. By contrast, the Triangle’s unemployment rate was 7.3 percent a year ago and 7.9 percent in July 2012.
N.C. State University economist Michael Walden said that the 5,500 jobs that the Triangle added in July, after seasonal adjustments, was more telling than the rising unemployment rate.
“The unemployment rate can go up because people enter the labor force or the unemployment rate can go down because people leave the labor force,” he said. “In my opinion, the number of jobs and the change in the number of jobs is a more important indicator.”
“The fact that we added 5,500 jobs,” Walden added, “that is actually a very robust number.”
Walden called the Triangle “one of the strongest metropolitan markets in the country.”
Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner also was upbeat in spite of the uptick in the unemployment rate.
“The Raleigh-Durham area is adding jobs at a pace that’s at least twice the pace of the rest of the country,” he said. “And the quality of the jobs being added in the Triangle tends to be better than what we’re seeing nationwide. We’re seeing good growth in the tech sector, good gains in construction.”
Vitner anticipates the Triangle’s unemployment rate will end the year below 5 percent.
On the down side, although the economy is improving, “the rate of growth is still below what we saw in past business cycles,” Vitner said. “There are still a lot of areas that are struggling. A higher proportion of jobs being created are part-time jobs rather than full-time jobs.”
The state’s unemployment rate for July, released last week, rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.5 percent even though the state added 15,800 jobs during the month.
The national unemployment rate was 6.2 percent for July.