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Mecklenburg’s jobless rate inches upward, but it’s well below last year

Mecklenburg County’s unemployment rate ticked upward slightly in January to 6.9 percent, but remains well below where it stood a year ago.

The rate inched up from 6.7 percent in December to 6.9 percent in January. It remained below the 9.6 percent unemployment rate the county logged a year earlier.

The statewide unemployment rate for January was 7 percent.

Unemployment ticked upward in January in most counties around the Charlotte region, as well as statewide, according to the not-seasonally-adjusted numbers released Friday by the N.C. Department of Commerce.

January can be a tough month to decipher because of layoffs and inventory depletion after the holiday shopping season, N.C. State University economist Michael Walden noted in his February forecast of the state’s leading economic indicators.

Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner expressed similar thoughts, noting the sharp decline in rates over the past year.

“The rise in the local unemployment rate in January is not all that worrisome,” he said.

Year-over-year employment rose in all 14 metropolitan areas around the state. The Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill area logged the largest net year-over-year increase with a gain of 24,800 jobs, up 2.9 percent. The Raleigh-Cary area followed with a gain of 17,800, up 3.4 percent.

The Charlotte area gained jobs in almost every one of the 10 broad nonfarm employment categories tracked. Among the highlights:

• Professional and business services, spurred on by job gains at expanding employers such as MetLife and Electrolux, picked up 9,200 jobs over the past year, a gain of 6.7 percent.

• Trade, transportation and utilities picked up 6,900 jobs, an increase of 3.9 percent.

• The closely-watched construction category, which also includes mining and logging, picked up 2,900 jobs, a 7.5 percent gain.

• Government was the only category to lose jobs, dropping by 1,000 positions, a decline of 0.8 percent.

Vitner said he expects the unemployment rate to continue trending lower this year, with the jobless rate for the metro area ending the year around 6 percent.

UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton’s most recent quarterly forecast projects the state will have a net increase of 60,000 jobs this year as construction and other sectors see strong employment gains.

Frazier: 704-358-5145; Twitter: @Ericfraz
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