Business

NC unemployment rate rises slightly to 4.7%

NetApp employees including Regina Evans, of Clayton, center, cheer as Gov. Pat McCrory announces them as one of the volunteer groups participating in the Sort-a-Rama on Sept. 11.
NetApp employees including Regina Evans, of Clayton, center, cheer as Gov. Pat McCrory announces them as one of the volunteer groups participating in the Sort-a-Rama on Sept. 11. News & Observer file photo

North Carolina’s unemployment rate climbed a notch to 4.7 percent in September even though the state added 9,700 jobs during the month.

The one-tenth of a percentage point increase in the state’s jobless rate, from 4.6 percent in August, is the result of a 2.1 percent increase in the state’s labor force on a seasonally adjusted basis, said Richard Kaglic, an economist in the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The labor force includes both people with jobs and those who are actively looking for work.

The bottom line is that the state’s economy remains on “an upward trajectory” and is continuing to add jobs faster than the national average, Kaglic said.

Over the past year North Carolina has added 82,600 jobs, a 1.9 percent increase versus a 1.7 percent hike for the nation as a whole, Kaglic said.

At the same time, however, the rate of job growth is softening both statewide and nationally, Kaglic said. He noted that, a few months ago, the state was adding jobs at a 2.1 percent or 2.2 percent annual clip.

The seasonally adjusted state unemployment rate released Friday by the N.C. Department of Commerce was a percentage point lower than it was 12 months ago. At 4.7 percent, the state’s unemployment rate also is an improvement over the national jobless rate of 5 percent.

“With its unemployment rate below 5 percent for the past four months, North Carolina’s labor market has now returned to the zone of full employment,” economists at Wells Fargo Securities wrote in a report issued Friday. “More and more businesses are reporting they are having difficulty finding and retaining the skilled workers they need, which is pushing wages higher and pulling job seekers back into the labor market.”

Sectors that showed the strongest growth in September include construction, which added 3,300 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities, which increased by 3,100 jobs; and professional and business services, which added 2,700 jobs.

Leisure and hospitality services led the sectors that showed a net loss in jobs during the quarter with a decline of 3,300 jobs.

That sector has shown strong growth over the past couple of years – including the addition of 5,200 jobs during the past 12 months – but has been declining in recent months. One possibility for the recent job losses, Kaglic said, is that workers may be moving to better-paying industries as the jobs picture continues to improve.

Local unemployment rates are scheduled to be released Wednesday. The Triangle’s jobless rate was 4.1 percent in August.

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii

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