Durham-Chapel Hill metro area unemployment down in March
Unemployment in the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area was down to 6.7 percent in March, the lowest level for the area since December of 2008.
That’s according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division. The data was not adjusted for seasonal variations in employment.
The metro area, which includes Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties, saw its non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fall from February’s rate of 7 percent. It was down compared the rate of 7.3 percent seen in March of last year.
James Kleckley, director of the Bureau of Business Research at the East Carolina University College of Business, said there was improvement in most of local areas in the state in March, but there’s still a long way to go.
“The unemployment rate remains too high,” Kleckley said in an email. “Growth in North Carolina and its regions needs to accelerate, but that acceleration will not happen until the national economy begins to grow more quickly,” he said.
Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo, said there’s a lot of ground to recover just to get back to the levels seen prior to the last recession. On a more positive note, he said the quality of jobs that are being added is “pretty good.”
Vitner said that according to Wells Fargo seasonally adjusted data, the metro area’s unemployment rate was actually up in March to 6.9 percent compared to 6.7 percent in February. He said the last time there were two consecutive months of seasonally adjusted unemployment below 7 percent was in December of 2008 and January of 2009. The metro area’s rate in March was below a seasonally adjusted rate of 7.5 percent seen in the month last year, he said.
“The overall trend is that the unemployment rate is declining, and is likely to trend lower, and we think that in the second half of this year, the unemployment rate (will) be about a half a percentage point (lower) than it is today,” Vitner said.
According to the non-seasonally adjusted data from the Labor and Economic Analysis Division, Durham County’s unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in March, the fifth lowest out of any of the state’s 100 counties. Last year in March, the county’s unemployment rate was 7.5 percent.
The county’s labor force grew in March compared with the month last year, according to the non-seasonally adjusted data, while the county’s number of employed workers grew by a similar margin. Meanwhile, its number of unemployed people fell year-over-year.
Orange County, with a rate of 5.6 percent in March, had the lowest non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of any county in the state. The county’s rate was down from its own non-seasonally adjusted rate of 5.9 percent in March of last year.
Chatham County’s rate of 6.2 percent was the second lowest in the state. The rate was down compared with the rate of 8 percent seen in March of last year.
Person County’s unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in March, down from March of last year’s rate of 9.8 percent.