State unemployment sees decrease

Dec. 22, 2013 @ 08:56 AM

For the fifth straight month, the jobless rate for North Carolina has decreased.

For November, the unemployment rate hit a low that hasn't been seen in well over a year.

According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce's Labor and Economic Analysis Division, the state's rate dropped two points in a year to 7.4 percent for November.

That also marks a 0.6 percent decrease from October's rate.

The news came just weeks after Rutherford County's unemployment rate dropped to its lowest levels in five years during the month of October. For that month, the county's jobless rate was 10 percent, which was down 2.3 percent from a year ago.

A large factor in the significant drop is the decrease of those unemployed in the state. Over the year, there has been a drop of 101,091 people unemployed.

The state has seen a 0.1 percent increase over the year in the number of employed to 4.3 million. The increase over the year was 6,082.

Over the month, 20,037 more people became employed while the number of unemployed dropped by 28,138 — or a 7.6 percent decrease.

"There's a lot of things to look at when you look at the numbers," said Larry Parker, spokesman for the Department of Commerce. "It was a flat number for jobs but when you see an increase in the the number of employed, it makes a difference.

"Dropping the number of unemployed will be a big factor."

Another factor is the drop in the labor force. Over the year, the state has lost 95,009 people off the roll. Over the month, there was a decrease of 8,101 in the labor force across North Carolina.

"Folks give up looking for work, they move, retire and even give up for good reason such as they are seasonal or ended a part-time job," Parker said. "There are lots of reasons why people leave the labor force.

"North Carolina is not unique in the drop in the labor force. Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina have all seen similar drops in the labor force."

Part of the drop could be due to recent changes in the state's unemployment insurance law. The General Assembly trimmed the amount of time unemployed could collect unemployment insurance to a maximum of 12 weeks. Additionally, 67,000 across the state lost their benefits on July 1 because of the change.

"But how many of those folks left the labor force or found another job is difficult to tell because they are not tracked individually like that," Parker said.

The largest job gains over the month came in trade, transportation and utilities with 2,600 jobs gained. Professional and business services gained 2,000 jobs while construction added 1,600 jobs over the month.

Due to the holiday season, traditionally the retail sector will see strong gains in November and December. However, those gains were modest in November.

"As we look at the jobs portion, we would like to see retail jobs gain strong but the biggest increase came on the wholesale side," Parker said.

According to figures, the state has gained 244,000 jobs since February 2010, however Parker said there is still some distance to get back to pre-recession levels in early 2007.

"It's taken some time to really recover from the recession here in North Carolina," Parker said. "Looking at how long it took to get back to the same jobs level at the start of the recession, we still aren't there and we are 5-6 years since the recession started but we are a lot closer."