The state’s unemployment rate rose for the second consecutive month as the economy continues to suffer from anemic growth.
North Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 9.7 percent in August, which follows on the heels of a two-tenths of a percentage point increase in July, the state Division of Employment Security reported Friday.
“I see this as a step back for the job market in North Carolina,” said N.C. State University economist Michael Walden.
July was the first month in 2012 that the unemployment rate rose. Previously, it either fell or was unchanged.
Just four states have higher unemployment rates than North Carolina: Nevada, which leads the nation with 12.1 percent unemployment, followed by Rhode Island, California and New Jersey.
The state’s unemployment rate is still down from a year ago, when it stood at 10.7 percent.
“This is just another report that is consistent with the pattern of the past two-and-a-half years,” said John Quinterno of South by North Strategies, a Chapel Hill firm. “It’s a pattern of minimal job growth coupled with fairly high levels of joblessness.”
The state’s unemployment rate remains well above the national rate of 8.1 percent.
The unemployment rate rose even though the state added 1,100 jobs after seasonal adjustments, according to a survey of employers included in the state data. That increase was led by an increase of 8,400 government jobs. The construction sector lost 3,400 jobs during the month.
Quinterno said he takes the growth in government jobs with a grain of salt. Although seasonal adjustments theoretically compensate for back-to-school employment, the economy has been struggling so long that some long-term patterns have been disrupted – making it difficult to get an accurate picture.
Indeed, the report issued by the state includes this caveat: “While seasonal adjustment factors are applied to the data, these factors may not be fully capturing the seasonal trend. Therefore ... it is advisable to focus on over-the-year changes” rather than month-to-month fluctuations.
Over the past year, the number of government jobs in North Carolina has fallen by 3,800 to 693,400. Overall, 451,806 workers were unemployed in the state in August.
Walden is projecting a marginal improvement in the state’s unemployment rate the rest of the year, a decline of a few tenths of a percentage point that would keep it above 9 percent.
“No one is happy with that,” he said. “It’s indicative of what a tough, tough economic recovery this has been.”
The Triangle’s unemployment rate for August will be released Sept. 28.
In July, the unemployment rate for the area was 7.9 percent, according to state data seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo in Charlotte.