Durham County unemployment down year-over-year in June, up from May

Jul. 30, 2013 @ 05:50 PM

Durham County’s unemployment rate continued to show signs of improvement compared with last year in June, declining five-tenths of a percentage point to land at 7.2 percent. However, the rate was up slightly compared with May.

That’s according to data from the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in the job market by the East Carolina University’s Bureau of Business Research.

James Kleckley, bureau director, said in an email the seasonally adjusted rates held fairly steady in June across the state compared with May. In the longer-term, looking at the year-over-year changes, he said unemployment is going in the right direction – down –but changes are modest.

“We still have a long way to go to get the employment and unemployment numbers to pre-recession levels,” he said.

In non-seasonally adjusted data, Durham County was one of 81 counties that saw unemployment rate increases in June, when the data are impacted by the summer school break and other seasonal factors. 

Seasonally adjusted, the county’s rate was up to 7.2 percent compared with May’s rate of 7.1 percent. Kleckley pointed to a drop in employment in the county as part of the explanation for the increase.

The number of employed workers fell by 1,774 to a total of 135,126 compared with May, while the number of unemployed people fell by only six.

Kleckley said he believes the year-over-year decline is the more important trend. The county’s unemployment rate was down to 7.2 percent from 7.7 percent in June of last year.  The total number of employed people was up by 330, while the number of unemployed people fell by 794.

He said the rates have been lower on a year-over-year basis for 19 of the past 20 months, excluding January, when he said rates held fairly steady.

“Still, the annual changes were modest even though the numbers are going in the right direction,” Kleckley said in an email.

Ted Conner, vice president of economic development for the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, said he’s heard companies report that while business is improving, they’re still reluctant to make new hires.

“What I hear from some industries is, business is getting better, but some people are very, very reluctant to hire until they feel like business is going to be good for a more prolonged period, and that’s what I think we’re seeing,” he said.

Conner said he’d love to go back to the pre-recession days, when unemployment in Durham County was around 3 percent.

“We would love to see those numbers reduced,” he said. “These are indeed challenging times.”

In the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area, which includes Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady at 6.9 compared with May. The rate was down from June of last year’s 7.5 percent.

Orange County’s rate fell to 5.9 percent in June compared with May’s 6 percent, and was down from 6.5 percent in June of last year.

Chatham’s rate, at 6.3 percent, was up from May’s 6.2 percent and down from June of last year’s 7.2 percent.

Person County saw its rate hold steady at 9.9 percent in June compare with May, and decline from 10.1 percent in June of last year.