Durham County unemployment rate holds in July

Aug. 28, 2013 @ 06:12 PM

Durham County’s unemployment rate held steady in July at 7.2 percent as employment and unemployment both fell slightly.

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

The county’s rate was unchanged in July from June according to the seasonally adjusted numbers, but was down compared with last July’s rate of 7.8 percent. The steady rate was due to “little change” in both employment as well as unemployment, James Kleckley, director of ECU’s Bureau of Business Research, said in an email.

The number of employed workers in the county fell by 301 compared with June, according to Kleckley’s report, and by 164 workers compared with July of last year. Meanwhile, unemployment fell by 10 workers compared with June, and by a larger margin – by 1,049 people -- compared with last July.

Unemployment was higher than this year’s low of 6.9 percent, in April, and was also higher than levels seen prior to the economic downturn, Kleckley said. However, it was also below the maximum seen during the recession.

Ted Conner, vice president of economic development and community sustainability for the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, said July’s report showed “not a tremendous amount of change at all,” but he said he is seeing companies adding small numbers of employees slowly.

“I almost feel like that’s the way our recovery is going to go – no huge explosion, but a gradual rebound in the employment,” Conner said.

In the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area according to Kleckley’s seasonally adjusted data, the unemployment rate fall by a tenth of a percentage point to 6.8 percent, and fell from July 2012’s rate of 7.6 percent. Both employment and unemployment were down in the metro area in the month.

According to a survey of jobs on the payroll of a number of businesses in the state, the metro area saw its largest employment gain in the leisure and hospitality sector, gaining 800 jobs compared with June for an increase of 3.1 percent. Compared with July 2012, the sector added 2,900 jobs in the metro area for an increase of 12.4 percent.

The largest losses in July were in the government sector, according to the survey, showing a loss of 4,600 jobs compared with June, and 2,200 jobs compared with July of last year.

Allan Freyer, a policy analyst with the N.C. Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center, said in a statement that Wednesday’s report shows that a large share of new jobs in the state’s metro areas came from industries that “don’t pay a living wage.” The Justice Center is an advocacy group for low-income people.

A news release from the center said that compared with July of last year, the leisure and hospitality sector saw the largest or second largest employment growth in 10 of the state’s metro areas.

“It’s hard to see how our metro areas can continue to see economic improvement without significant income growth to support consumer spending at local businesses,” Freyer said in a statement.