by Jordan Green

Monitoring the economic pulse of the Triad

Unemployment drops across the state, but only a little

The labor force expanded while unemployment rates dipped across the state from April 2012 to April 2013. The Triad trails the more prosperous Triangle region in both unemployment rates and pace of improvement.

The unemployment rate in the Winston- Salem metro area fell from 8.4 to 8.0 percent while unemployment dropped from 9.3 to 8.9 percent in the Greensboro- High Point metro area from April 2012 to April 2013, according to a report released last week by the labor and economic analysis division at the NC Department of Commerce.

In comparison, unemployment dropped from 7.4 to 6.8 percent in the Raleigh-Cary metro area and from 6.9 to 6.3 percent in the Durham-Chapel Hill metro during the same period. And unemployment dropped in the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill metro area from 9.0 to 8.4 percent.

At the high end of the spectrum, unemployment in the Rocky Mount metro area remains stalled at 12.3 percent.

John Quinterno, an economist with South by North Strategies in Chapel Hill, said improvements in overall labormarket conditions depend on growth in Charlotte, the Triangle and the Triad, where more than half of the state’s workers live. Notwithstanding the positive trend lines, Quinterno characterized growth in the three major urban areas as “subdued.”

The Greensboro-High Point metro area has added significant numbers of jobs in trade, transportation & utilities and leisure & hospitality, offset by losses in professional & business services and manufacturing — changes mirrored in Winston-Salem.

In comparison, the more robust Raleigh-Cary metro area has posted gains in education and health services; professional and business services; and trade, transportation and utilities while experiencing losses in the construction sector. All major job sectors have grown in the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area, with the largest numbers seen in education and health services; professional and business services; and leisure and hospitality.

Quinterno warned that the modest gains might not hold.

“Despite recent improvements in local labor markets across the state, the problems of unemployment and the accompanying hardships remain pronounced,” he said in a prepared statement. “The state simply lacks enough jobs for all those who need and want work, and robust job growth remains far beyond the horizon. Given the massive changes to the unemployment insurance system scheduled to occur on July 1, the problems only may get worse before they get better.”