NC Unemployment Rate Hits Nearly Six-Year Low

North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest point in nearly six years in February at 6.4 percent.

According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the jobless rate fell from 6.7 percent in January, a total of 0.3 percent. However, the numbers aren’t all positive.

While the report shows nearly 15,000 fewer people claimed unemployment, only 7,400 more people were hired.

The same trend is apparent when comparing the numbers over the year: nearly 50,000 more people were employed from February 2013 to 2014, while more than 112,000 fewer people claimed to be unemployed. That decreased the jobless rate 2.2 percent in just 12 months.

February 2014 also put North Carolina’s unemployment rate lower than the national number for the first time since March 2006.

The county-by-county unemployment numbers are scheduled to release April 9.

To see the complete breakdown of North Carolina’s February unemployment stats, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/nc-unemployment-rate-hits-nearly-six-year-low/

State Unemployment Rate Hits Five-Year Low In January

North Carolina’s unemployment rate marked its lowest point in nearly six years this January, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

In the first month of the new year, the jobless rate fell 0.2 percent compared to the month prior and 2.1 percent from the year before.

The numbers reflect true improvement from between December and January with more than 17,000 people claiming new jobs while more than 11,000 people no longer claimed to be without employment.

North Carolina’s unemployment numbers are just about even with the national level of 6.6 percent.

The state’s unemployment rate of 6.7 percent marks the lowest point since November 2008, which was in the middle of a five-percent increase in about a year and a half.

The county-by-county unemployment rates are scheduled to be released this Friday.

Click here to see the unemployment rate release.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/state-unemployment-rate-hits-five-year-low-january/

In NC, Did Cutting Benefits Really Cut Unemployment?

CHAPEL HILL – Last year, the General Assembly voted to cut off unemployment benefits for thousands of North Carolinians—and the unemployment rate went down, faster in this state than anywhere else in the country.

But were those two connected—and if so, how?

Republicans say cutting off benefits motivated people to get back on the job market; Democrats say the move actually discouraged people, to the point where they dropped out of the job market altogether.

But Mark Vitner—managing director and senior economist at Wells Fargo—says he’s skeptical all around.

“As with many things in economics,” he says, “if you take the data and twist them the way you want, you can say just about anything.”

Vitner says he doesn’t believe the unemployment rate fell solely because people dropped out of the job market: North Carolina’s labor force did decline in 2013, but the decline was actually faster in the first half of the year, before the state cut off benefits.

Furthermore, Vitner says, “(while) we had the biggest drop in the unemployment rate in the country, we didn’t have the biggest drop in the labor force in the country – not even close to it.”

That suggests North Carolina was, in fact, getting people back to work in 2013, at a faster rate than most other states.

Governor Pat McCrory and other Republicans have touted this as a “Carolina miracle.” But Vitner says not so fast.

“If you’ve been unemployed for long periods of time and you’ve received emergency benefits, odds are you’ve exhausted your savings,” he says. “I think many people, many of those folks, took jobs that they wouldn’t have taken in the past – because they were looking for something to replace the job that they had lost – but now they’ve got a different concern, which is ‘I’ve got to get money in the door’…

“And so part of that increase in leisure and hospitality employment and retail trade that picked up in the second half of the year may have been people saying, ‘well, I’ve got to take something because I’ve got to get money coming in.’ And that’s not a success story.”

Vitner made those comments at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual economic outlook briefing, last week Thursday at the Sheraton Chapel Hill.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/nc-cutting-benefits-really-cut-unemployment/

Economist: Next Three Years Will Be Strong

CHAPEL HILL – The national and local economy got off to a slow start this year, but economist Mark Vitner of Wells Fargo says he still expects 2014 to be a strong year overall.

“Most of the numbers that we’re going to see (from February) are likely to be disappointing because the time that those reports are put together, the time period that they reference, is right about the time that we had the big snowstorm,” he said Thursday. “But I think that’s all pretty much a temporary disruption.”

Vitner delivered the keynote address at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Economic Outlook Briefing, Thursday morning at the Sheraton Chapel Hill.

Vitner based his optimism on a number of positive developments—including reduced uncertainty following the federal budget deal; rapid growth in the nation’s energy and tech sectors; and an expected drop in the unemployment rate, down below six percent by the end of the year. He said he expects the improved economy will spur the Fed to raise interest rates sometime in 2015 (though not before).

Even so, Vitner says economic growth will be slower in the future than it has been in the past. Prior to the recession, he says, the U.S. economy grew at an average rate of 3.3 percent per year—but that was sustained in part by heavy debt. Now that credit’s harder to come by, Vitner says growth won’t be quite that fast: he predicts the economy will grow by 2.4 percent in 2014, up about half a point from last year, and by about 3.1 percent in 2015 and 2016.

If that prediction holds, Vitner says we’ll be doing pretty well.

“We think that 2014, 2015 and 2016 will be the three best years of this decade,” he said Thursday.

And with the economy returning to normal, consumer confidence too is up from previous years. But Vitner says people aren’t necessarily feeling more optimistic, just less pessimistic: fewer people say the economy is “bad,” but there’s been no change in the number of people who are ready to say the economy is “good.”

“I kind of sum that out as ‘less bad is good – but more good would be better,’” he quipped. “That’s kind of where the economy is right now.”

Vitner is a Charlotte-based managing director and senior economist for Wells Fargo. More than 100 people were in attendance for his speech on Thursday.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/economist-next-three-years-will-strong/

Rep. Price: Cutting Benefits Doesn’t Cut Unemployment

Across the nation and here in North Carolina, the unemployment rate has been in decline, a fact that has many cautiously optimistic about the economy.

But U.S. Congressman David Price (D) of Chapel Hill says not so fast.

“Has the number of jobs, and people filling jobs, actually increased?” he says. “The answer is no.”

And he says that means federal and state government still has to be active in aiding both the economy and those individuals struggling to find a job.

“We’re still stalled here in this economy – you still have three people seeking (work) for every job that’s available – and so people still need this support system to go after these jobs,” he told WCHL last week, shortly after attending a pair of roundtables on unemployment at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh.

“These folks are really, really wanting to work…(and) I’m hopeful that eventually they’ll succeed, but the notion that you help them by pulling the safety net out from under them is just preposterous.”

At those roundtables, Price met with instructors and students in the school’s Human Resources Development program, which provides career advice and job skills training for students who need it.

“This is a group of people who have good training (and) good job backgrounds,” he says. “The group that I talked to was remarkable in that respect – but yet also remarkable in just not being able to penetrate this job market.”

Price says that’s why he’s currently urging both the federal government and the state government to extend unemployment benefits for those out of work. North Carolina legislators cut unemployment benefits last year, a move that also disqualified the state from receiving federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation as well. And at the federal level, Congress too is currently debating whether to extend unemployment benefits.

Price, along with a majority of Democrats, says it should be done.

“I don’t think there’s any question (about that),” he says. “Never – never – in a period of unemployment this severe have benefits been yanked at this point.”

Republicans in North Carolina point to the state’s declining unemployment rate as evidence that cutting benefits has motivated people to get back to work. But Price says the attendees at last week’s forum said otherwise—and he says the numbers seem to indicate that if anything, cutting benefits has actually motivated people to drop out of the job market altogether.

“The unemployment program requires you to seek work and keeps you plugged in to the employment security system,” he says. “One economist (at the roundtable) who has studied the trends said that the number of people seeking work actually went down when the unemployment benefits were discontinued…

“In other words, far from making people go out and look for a job more diligently, it seemed to have the opposite effect: it just discouraged people and caused them to drop out.”

North Carolina’s labor force shrank in 2013 by about 111,000 workers; about half of that came after the benefit cuts took effect in June. The state only added about 13,000 new jobs in 2013, but it did add more than 41,000 in the second half of the year after a drop from January to June.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/rep-price-cutting-benefits-doesnt-cut-unemployment/

NC Jobless Rates Tumbles, Signs Remain Of Sluggish Recovery

RALEIGH – The North Carolina unemployment rate took another dive in the final month of 2013 as 6.9 percent of the workforce claimed jobless benefits, according to the Department of Commerce.

That’s half-a-percent better than November 2013 and is nearly catching up with the national average, which sat at 6.7 percent in December.

December’s rate is also 2.5-percent better than the year ago.

However, the figures release still points to an economy that is struggling to rebound. While the number of people claiming unemployment decreased by more than 124,000 individuals over the year, the number of people employed only increased by more than 13,000. From November to December 2013, the numbers were a little more even at around 20,000 each.

To see the complete data release, click here.

The county-by-county unemployment rate is scheduled to be released February 5.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/nc-jobless-rates-tumbles-signs-remain-sluggish-recovery/

NC Ahead Of Schedule In Paying Off Federal Debt

RALEIGH – North Carolina Department of Commerce officials say the state is ahead of schedule in paying off its debt to the federal government.

“It’s been a good year in terms of paying off the debt,” says Division of Employment Security assistant secretary Dale Folwell. “We’re almost $100 million ahead of expectation.”

That’s important, he says, because “as long as this debt’s outstanding, employers in North Carolina–or future employers who are thinking about coming here–have to pay a higher federal unemployment tax.”

Following the recessions of 2001 and 2008, North Carolina borrowed heavily from the federal government to pay state unemployment benefits. By January of this year, the resulting debt had reached $2.5 billion—third highest in the nation behind only New York and California.

Governor Pat McCrory made paying off the debt a priority, and researchers estimated that the debt would be reduced to about $2 billion by the end of the year—but Folwell says it’s now even less than that, about $1.87 billion.

The focus on debt reduction came at the expense of other programs, but Folwell says the debt puts North Carolina at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting new businesses or retaining existing ones, so paying it off is important—and it’s equally important to prevent it from happening again.

“Paying off the debt–we can’t stop there,” he says. “We have to build a surplus, so that no one ever gets in this situation again.”

If the latest projections hold, the state will pay off the debt in full by November of 2015.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-ahead-schedule-paying-federal-debt/

August Unemployment Takes Big Dive, County-By-County

RALEIGH – Two months before your federal government went into a partial shutdown, county unemployment rates were still improving, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he’s concerned this shutdown, no matter how long it lasts, will hurt the economy that is slowly improving.

In August, Orange County’s unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) decreased half a percent compared to July, falling from 6.2 to 5.7 percent. Additionally, compared to a year ago, the county’s jobless rate fell 0.9 percent.

Chatham County still comes in second at 5.4 percent to the state’s leader in unemployment, Currituck, at 4.1 percent. From July to August this year, Currituck County’s jobless rate fell 1.2 percent.

For the county-by-county breakdown, click here. North Carolina’s unemployment rate for September is scheduled to be released October 22.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/august-unemployment-takes-big-dive-county-by-county/

State Unemployment Continues Steady Decline

RALEIGH – North Carolina’s unemployment rate continues its steady decline and has reached a more than four-and-a-half-year low at 8.7 percent.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce announced Friday that the state’s unemployment rate saw a decrease of 0.2 percent from July to August. That followed the nation’s trend which fell from 7.4 to 7.3 percent.

Compared to a year ago, the state’s unemployment rate fell 0.9 percent from 9.6 to 8.7.

Employment increased in the state by more than 3,500 jobs in the month of August. The number of people claiming unemployment fell by more than 8,500.

County-by-county numbers for August are scheduled to be released October 2. In July, Orange County had the state’s third-lowest unemployment rate; Chatham County was second behind Currituck.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/state-unemployment-continues-steady-decline/

Triangle Unemployment Continues To Fall

RALEIGH – Unemployment in Chatham and Orange counties improved just before the start of the new school year as the two areas are second and third in the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

Both counties dropped 0.2 percent in July as Orange fell to 6.2 percent and Chatham fell to 6.1 percent. Currituck County remains the county with the lowest unemployment statewide at 5.3 percent.

Compared to the state rate of 8.9 percent, which saw an increase in July, the Triangle remains a strong area for jobs. Wake County saw a decrease of 0.1 percent to 7.2 in July; Durham County remained at 7.5 percent.

Compared to a year ago, Orange County is a whole point better from 7.2 to 6.2 percent; Chatham saw the same pattern from 7.1 to 6.1.

For the full report from the Labor and Economic Analysis Division, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/triangle-unemployment-continues-to-fall/