Mecklenburg County’s unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent in March, down from 9.3 percent the same month last year, the N.C. Department of Commerce reported Wednesday.
The dip marks one of only a few instances since 2009 that the county’s unemployment rate has dropped below 9 percent. It fell to 8.7 percent in October, only to tick back up in later months. It stood at 9.2 percent in February.
In the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill area, Wednesday’s preliminary figures – which weren’t adjusted for seasonal employment fluctuations – showed the rate dropped to 8.8 percent in March, down from 9.4 percent a month ago and 9.5 percent in March 2012.
“The number for Mecklenburg is another indicator that things are getting better,” said UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton. “The economy is improving, but maybe not at the rate we’d like to see.”
Activity could pick up in the second half of the year, he added, if increases in home sales and prices keep accelerating.
“If that continues on the next couple months, I don’t think there’s any question but in the second half of the year we’ll see a different economy than what we’ve seen in the past five years.”
Officials counted 502,149 people in Mecklenburg’s labor force for March, with 44,028 unemployed.
The leisure and hospitality sector continued showing strong year-over-year growth, adding 7,100 jobs. Professional and business services added 4,400 jobs. Financial activities remained down year over year by 200 jobs. That number, however, was smaller than the February figure, when the financial sector was down 700 jobs year over year.
Online job search firm Simply Hired said its database held nearly 52,000 Charlotte job openings in April.
Carolinas HealthCare System had the most job postings that month, soliciting for 2,291 jobs through the site. Harris Teeter followed with 982 jobs, then Wells Fargo with 472.
The state still hasn’t made up the job losses it suffered during the recession.
North Carolina has 119,400 fewer jobs now than it had in December 2007, when the nation fell into recession, according to South by North Strategies, a Chapel Hill-based research firm.
Frazier: 704-358-5145 Twitter: @ericfraz
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