News: CJ Exclusives

Despite Drop, N.C. Has Nation’s Fifth-Highest Unemployment Rate

Rate remains more than 1 percentage point above national figure

North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points in March to a seasonally adjusted rate of 9.7 percent as the number of unemployed fell and the number of people with jobs rose.

Even so, North Carolina’s unemployment rate remains more than 1 percentage point higher than the national rate in both seasonally adjusted (9.7 percent versus 8.2 percent) and not seasonally adjusted (9.6 percent versus 8.4 percent) terms. As was true in February, only three other states recorded higher unemployment rates (seasonally adjusted) than North Carolina: Nevada (12.0 percent); Rhode Island (11.1 percent); and California (11.0 percent). The District of Columbia’s 9.8 percent rate also was higher than the Tar Heel State’s.

The report (PDF download), by the state’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the Department of Commerce, found that in March the number of unemployed North Carolinians fell in not seasonally adjusted or unadjusted terms by 26,890, from 471,867 in February to 444,977 in March. Over the same period, the number of employed North Carolinians rose by 14,122, from 4,183,324 to 4,197,446. In unadjusted terms, the state’s labor force fell by nearly 13,000 in March.

The report also said that in March an additional 33,100 jobs were created in unadjusted terms. Of those, 28,500 were in the private sector and 4,600 in government. The largest industry group gains were in Leisure & Hospitality Services (10,400), Trade, Transportation & Utilities (7,900), and Government (4,600).

Over the past year, private-sector jobs have increased by 43,000 and government jobs by 2,500 (unadjusted).

Using the unadjusted measure, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said the government sector in North Carolina recorded a month-to-month gain of 500 federal jobs, 1,300 state jobs, and 2,800 local jobs. Since March 2011, North Carolina has added 800 jobs in federal government, 1,100 in state government, and 2,600 in local government.

That said, the number of government jobs in state and local education has gone down over the past year. In adjusted terms, state government education services (including community colleges and public universities) have lost 600 jobs; local government education services have lost 3,000 jobs.

Recent campaign rhetoric in the battle for the Democratic nomination to replace Gov. Bev Perdue has painted a much different picture. In particular, state Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, states on his website that 6,455 “teachers, teachers aides, and other state employees [were] fired by the Republican budget.” He also asserted that the “Republican budget … put approximately 36,000 people out of work.”

The employment report showed a loss of 1,300 jobs in March using the seasonal adjustment factor. That stands in contrast to the gain of 33,100 jobs in unadjusted terms indicated in the same report. The seasonally adjusted methodology estimates the number of jobs that should exist if such seasonal factors as holiday shopping seasons and school years were not present.

Rick Henderson is the managing editor of Carolina Journal.