County unemployment 7.1%, lowest since March 2009

Apr. 10, 2013 @ 06:54 PM

Durham County’s unemployment rate in February was 7.1 percent, the lowest in the county since March 2009, according to data released Wednesday.

The county’s rate dropped from the January rate of 7.9 percent and the February 2012 rate of 7.7 percent. Wednesday’s numbers, from the N. C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division, are preliminary and not adjusted for seasonal variations in the labor market.

Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner said that despite the drop, the labor market is still “a long way off” from being as healthy as it was prior to the recession.

 “We’re moving back in the range that most people would consider normal, but there’s two problems in that, one, there are a lot of people out there that would like to work that aren’t looking for work today, and (from an employers’ perspective, employers) can’t find anybody that can qualify for the jobs that are available,” he said.

For the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7 percent, down from 7.7 percent in January and down from 7.6 percent in February of last year. The rate was that low in the metro area in November of last year, and was lower in September, when the rate was 6.9 percent.

Seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo, the metro area’s unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, down from January’s 7.3 percent, and down from February 2012’s 7.5 percent, Vitner said. The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area includes Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties.

The metro area gained 5,300 jobs from January to February. Year-over-year, the area saw an increase of 7,700 jobs. That’s according to a survey of jobs on the payroll of a number of businesses in the state.

Compared to the prior month, the metro area’s government sector added 2,100 jobs, while education and health services added 2,000 jobs, and the mining, logging and construction sector added 200. Leisure and hospitality added 600.

Compared to February of last year, the metro area’s education and health services sector saw a bump of 3,300 additional jobs. The information sector added 300, professional and business services added 2,000, and manufacturing added 1,000. Leisure and hospitality added 700.

Vitner said that in the longer term, the Durham area’s job growth has been predominately in health care, life science and technology. The quality of some of those jobs has been good. He also added that the recovery has broadened.

“More industries (are adding) jobs today than we did a year ago,” he said.