Durham-Chapel Hill metro area unemployment drops in November

Jan. 07, 2014 @ 06:08 PM

The unemployment rate for the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area fell in November to the lowest rate the area has seen in five years.

The rate for the metropolitan statistical area, which includes Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties, was 5.7 percent in the month, which was down from October’s 6.1 percent and the rate of 7.2 percent seen in November of last year. The last time the rate was that low – according to the seasonally adjusted numbers – was in November 2008.
That’s according to the data released Tuesday by the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division that was adjusted for seasonal variations in employment.
Factoring into the decline in the rate for the metro area was a decrease in the number of unemployed people alongside a largely flat labor force.
The number of unemployed people was down nearly 6 percent to 15,655 month-over-month, and was down 22 percent compared to the same month of last year. Meanwhile, the labor force in the area was up slightly – by a margin of less than 1 percent -- month-over-month to 275,788, and was down, again by a small margin, of 0.7 percent compared to the same month last year.
Meanwhile, the number of people counted as employed in the metro area was up by a small margin, at 0.7 percent, to 260,133 in November compared to October, and was up by 0.9 percent compared to November of last year.
According to a separate survey of businesses and government agencies about the jobs they have on the payroll, however, there was more significant job growth in the metro area in November.
The survey showed that across all sectors, employment overall grew 0.9 percent month-over-month in the metro area, and grew 3.4 percent compared with the same month last year, led by the leisure and hospitality sector.
There was an 11.4 percent growth in leisure and hospitality employment in November compared to the same month last year, with an increase of 2,600 jobs. The government sector came in second with year-over-year growth of 5.9 percent and an addition of 3,800 jobs, and was followed information, which saw 5.7 percent growth with the addition of 200 additional jobs. Information was followed by education and health services, which grew 5.4 percent with the addition of 3,100 jobs.
The sector with the largest year-over-year percentage decline was in trade, transportation and utilities, which saw a 2.5 percent drop in employment with a decrease of 900 jobs. Manufacturing saw a 1.5 percent decline and a loss of 500 jobs.
N.C. State University professor Mike Walden said it’s good that the metro area saw jobs created in the month, and he thinks that will continue. He said the leisure and hospitality sector was “hard hit” during the recession, so it’s not surprising that it’s seeing a come-back now.
James Kleckley, director of the East Carolina University Bureau of Business Research, raised a concern that one of the primary drivers of the changes in the unemployment rate is drops in unemployment claims and not due to sharp increases in employment activity. He said the number of claims in North Carolina has dropped “dramatically” due to cuts in unemployment benefits activity. All jobs lost in the recession have not been recovered to create positions for displaced workers, he said, as well as to cover the new entrants into the labor force by high school and college graduates.