The Charlotte region’s unemployment rate fell from a year ago, to 9.1 percent in July, continuing the area’s slow climb toward economic recovery.
The jobless rate for July in the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill-metropolitan area came in 1.1 percentage points lower than July 2012, according to state figures released Wednesday.
Mecklenburg County’s unemployment rate ticked upward to 9.5 percent in July, compared to 9.4 percent in June. However, economists caution that the month-to-month fluctuations do not account for seasonal changes that happen every year, such as summer school closings.
Mecklenburg’s July figure represents the sixth month in a row that the county has seen a year-over-year drop in its unemployment rate.
“Overall, I think the numbers are looking better,” said Mark Vitner, an economist with Wells Fargo.
He added that Charlotte and Raleigh are the only two cities in North Carolina that now have more jobs than they did before the recession.
However, he and UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton both cited continued tepid job growth in the construction sector as a cause for concern.
The Charlotte region’s construction sector has added 1,500 jobs over the year. The region’s leading job-creating sector, leisure and hospitality, added more than 8,000.
The number of Mecklenburg residential building permits issued through July is up 25 percent from last year at that point, and some homebuilders have said they need more construction workers to keep up with rising demand.
Still, commercial and industrial building permits remain down, and economists say the sector’s employment remains far below pre-recession levels.
“For this entire recovery, until just very recently, we haven’t seen much of an increase in homebuilding,” Connaughton said. “You’re just not going to have a significant recovery without the housing industry participating.”
Frazier: 704-358-5145; Twitter: @Ericfraz
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