First Posted: 10/22/2014
RALEIGH — North Carolina’s unemployment rate dipped slightly to 6.7 percent in September, but so did the number of people working, state officials said Tuesday.
The state unemployment rate declined from 6.8 percent in August. The national unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent last month. Part of the reason North Carolina’s jobless rate is higher than the national average is that the state attracts and retains more young workers, said Josiah Baker, an economics professor at Methodist University in Fayetteville.
“The question is are these new jobs that are being created, are they going to pull educated people from other parts of the country to North Carolina, or are people in North Carolina with these qualifications going to be the ones that actually get these jobs. That’s a critical question, because more people are moving into North Carolina,” he said.
While the unemployment rate fell and nearly 4,600 fewer people were counted among the jobless in September, the number of working people also decreased. There were 5,600 fewer people working in September than in August.
But the picture is better by looking back to September 2013, when the state unemployment rate was 7.7 percent. Since then the number of people employed increased by 18,205 to 4,335,408. The number of jobless people declined by 49,243 over the year.
The strongest segment for growth in the past year was in white-collar professional and business-services jobs, which added 42,300 jobs.
“Those are generally higher wage jobs, college graduates pursue those jobs and so there is an indication that we’re seeing growth that could be more long-term,” Baker said. “There is the continual problem that we are having too many part-time jobs created and there are still too many low-wage jobs being created. We need more middle-wage jobs — jobs that pay enough to where you can have a significant amount of consumer spending, where you can build and maintain a household rather than just survival wages.”
While the number of government jobs fell last month and stayed flat in the past year, average weekly hours for manufacturing workers increased in September, showing greater activity on the factory floor.
The greatest manufacturing employment growth in the past year was furniture and related product, which added 2,000 jobs.
“This is an encouraging sign that the overall economy is improving, that people are willing to spend money on furniture, which is something that people do when they have more money,” Baker said.