The Triangle unemployment rate inched downward in yet another sign that the local economy is slowly mending.
The region’s unemployment rate dipped for the fourth consecutive month, from 7.1 percent in April to 7 percent in May, according to data issued by the N.C. Department of Commerce and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo economists in Charlotte.
However, the actual decline was less than 5/100ths of a percent, said Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner.
“It went from being rounded up to 7.1 percent to rounded down to 7.0 percent,” he said.
That said, Vitner is upbeat about the Triangle’s economy.
“My general sense is that the economy is doing better than the numbers are showing,” he said.
Nor was Vitner dismayed by data showing that the number of jobs in the Triangle fell by 1,700 in May.
“The May period is a little tricky,” he said. “You’ve got the end of the school year and you’ve got students coming into the workforce. Sometimes that hiring gets picked up in May. Sometimes that hiring gets picked up in June. It could be we just missed it this year and we’re going to see it show up in the June numbers.”
The unemployment rate and the jobs numbers rely on different surveys. The unemployment rate is based on a series of household interviews. The job numbers are derived from surveys of employers.
So far in 2013, the Triangle has added 2,900 jobs. Vitner continues to project that the Triangle will end up adding 25,000 to 30,000 jobs this year.
The state’s unemployment rate in May was 8.8 percent, the fifth highest in the nation.
“Our rate continues to be much higher than our neighboring states,” said James Kleckley, an economist at East Carolina University. Georgia and Tennessee posted an 8.3 percent unemployment rate in May. South Carolina’s jobless rate was 8 percent, and Virginia’s was 5.3 percent.
“We still haven’t seen the improvement we would like to see,” Kleckley said. “There are too many people who are unemployed and we’re just not creating enough jobs.”
“The saving grace,” he added, “is that (the Triangle) is the part of the state that’s the healthiest.”