Triangle jobless rate falls to 5.1% in April

dbracken@newsobserver.comJune 2, 2014 

The Triangle unemployment rate fell in April as the region added 1,500 jobs over the past month.

The jobless rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 5.1 percent, according to data released Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Commerce and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo. The last time the rate was this low was in August 2008, just before the investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and the global economy went into a tailspin.

The Triangle has added 6,700 jobs since the beginning of the year, putting it on pace to add about 20,000 this year. The strongest job growth has been in the professional and business services sector, which includes technology, and leisure and hospitality, said Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner.

“I suspect the job growth’s a little bit stronger than it’s been reported,” he said. “It seems to me construction activity has picked up even more than is being picked up by the employment data.”

Vitner said the ongoing strength of the leisure and hospitality sector remains one of the surprises of the economic recovery “given that income growth hasn’t been all that strong.”

The region’s jobless rate has now fallen 2.1 percentage points over the past 12 months, and remains well below the state rate. North Carolina’s jobless rate dipped to 6.2 percent in April, the lowest it has been in nearly six years.

Unlike some other metropolitan areas of the state, the Triangle’s jobless rate appears to be falling for all the right reasons, said John Quinterno of South by North Strategies, a Chapel Hill firm specializing in economic and social policy.

He noted that year-over-year, the labor force grew, more people became employed, and the number of people who were unemployed decreased in the Triangle. In other metro areas the jobless rate has been falling but it is largely because the labor force is contracting as people give up looking for work, Quinterno said.

“At least for Raleigh it seems like the improvements that we saw were generally the more positive kind,” he said.

While the pace of job growth in the Triangle remains below the region’s historical norms, it represents a sizable chunk of the total jobs being created in North Carolina. The state gained 15,300 jobs in April and has gained 16,900 jobs for the year.

“There are many parts of the state where the recession is far from over,” Quinterno said.

Bracken: 919-829-4548; Twitter: @brackendavid

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