Durham-Chapel Hill metro area November unemployment down

Jan. 03, 2013 @ 07:36 PM

The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was down in November compared to what it was in the month last year, and its rate held steady compared with October.

While one economist said the metro area is an outlier in a state with the nation’s fifth-highest unemployment rate, another said the downside is that everyone wants job growth to be happening faster.

The metro area’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in November, down from 8.2 percent in the same month last year.

That’s according to data from the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division that is seasonally adjusted by the East Carolina University Bureau of Business Research.

According to the data, the metro area’s unemployment rate in November was the lowest of any of the metro areas in the state. It also fell below the state’s seasonally adjusted rate of 9.1 percent.

The area had some of the best-performing individual counties in the state in the month. Orange County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was the lowest in the state at 6 percent in November, according to the bureau, while Chatham County had the second-lowest rate at 7.2 percent. Person’s rate was No. 42 at 9.5 percent.

Durham County’s rate was No. 9 on that list. Its seasonally adjusted rate was 7.5 percent in November, which was steady with October, according to the bureau, and down from the month last year, when it was 8.5 percent.

John Connaughton, a financial economics professor at UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business, called Durham County a “bright spot” in the state, and said the Durham-Chapel Hill metro-area is an outlier.

“You’re in a state with the nation’s fifth-highest unemployment rate,” Connaughton said. “So yeah, we’d love to have a 4 percent unemployment rate, but relative to what’s going on in the state, and even in the nation, Durham’s doing better,” he added.

Connaughton said North Carolina’s job growth has not been “anywhere near good enough,” but the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area has already regained the number of jobs lost since its employment low.

The state has regained only 43 percent of the estimated 333,000 jobs lost between December 2007 and February 2010 since then through November, Connaughton said, citing data from a survey of jobs on the payroll of businesses in the state.

According to non-seasonally adjusted data from the payroll survey, the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area lost about 13,000 jobs between January 2008 and January 2010. Its employment levels had climbed back to the peak seen in January 2008 by September of this year.

“The bottom line here, the point is, the Durham MSA has gained back the jobs,” Connaughton said, adding that the area’s unemployment rate is still above its previous levels because its labor force has grown. “That’s clearly an outlier in the state.”

Mike Walden, an agricultural and resource economics professor at N.C. State University, said that while the good news is that jobs are being added, the bad news is that it could be happening faster.

“We’re seeing an improvement in most counties, especially in the Triangle,” Walden said. “We’ve had a very slow economic rebound. I think everyone will want to see that rebound faster – that’s the negative,” he added. “The positive is we are adding jobs.”

James Kleckley, director of the Bureau of Business Research at the East Carolina University College of Business, said he believes more growth is needed.

“I think again if you look at the trend that we’ve been going through, that by and large, we’re kind of holding our own, but we need a lot more growth,” he said.

Kleckley said he believes the national economy needs to pick up, which could have a trickle-down effect at the state level.

He said in an email message that national growth can lead to consumer and business confidence, which allows people to spend more, and businesses to invest and hire.

“All this fiscal cliff stuff that we’ve been dealing with … the people in D.C. need to really get that all settled, get rid of the uncertainty that consumers and businesses have, then the national economy will start growing, and all of the states will benefit from that,” Kleckley said.