Mecklenburg County’s unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent for August, representing a dip from the previous month and from August 2012.
The 8.5 percent rate is based on a countywide labor force of 505,472, with 42,877 unemployed.
The county’s unemployment rate for July, without seasonal adjustments, was 9.5 percent. It was 9.7 percent in August 2012.
Because routine seasonal events like the end of school each summer can affect unemployment rates, economists prefer to compare the same months of consecutive years to get a more accurate sense of how joblessness is evolving.
The state’s unemployment rate for August was 8.3 percent. Jobless rates fell in 98 of 100 North Carolina counties, and dropped in all 14 metropolitan areas.
In the Charlotte metro area, which includes Gastonia and Rock Hill, S.C., the leisure and hospitality industry continued to lead the way in year-to-year job gains, posting an additional 9,300 jobs since August 2012, a 9.5 percent gain.
Critics have noted that the hospitality sector jobs tend to be low-paying ones, while better-paying blue collar industries like construction aren’t performing as strongly. But Harry Bowen, an economics professor at Queens University of Charlotte, said strong numbers from hotels and restaurants are a good sign.
“I would say that’s a nice leading indicator of the health of the economy,” he said. “When people start to go out again and spend money on restaurants, that’s an indicator people are starting to feel a little cushion in their incomes.”
The professional and business services sector grew by 6,200 jobs over the past year, a gain of 4.3 percent. The construction category, which also includes mining and logging, was up 2,300 jobs, a gain of 5.9 percent.
Trade, transportation and utilities also added 2,300 jobs, boosting that sector by 3.6 percent.
Bowen said continued positive momentum in the construction numbers is a good sign. He also said the federal government shutdown shouldn’t cause a drag on the area’s unemployment rate.
“I don’t expect that to last but a couple of weeks,” he said. “It’s just a question of who breaks first” and gives in.
Frazier: 704-358-5145; @Ericfraz on Twitter
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