The Charlotte area’s jobless rate ticked upward slightly in May, as it did in all the state’s metropolitan areas, but remains nearly 2 percentage points lower than the previous year, new data show.
The unemployment rate for the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, S.C., area stood at 6.5 percent in May, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce. It was 8.3 percent in May 2013.
For Mecklenburg County, the May jobless rate stood at 6.7 percent, down from 8.2 percent in May 2013 but up slightly from the 6.3 percent rate in April.
The area showed strong year-over-year growth in the professional and business services sector, which was up 8,100 jobs, an increase of 5.7 percent. Trade, transportation and utilities jumped by 7,300 jobs, or 4.1 percent. The sector that includes the closely watched construction industry jumped 7.1 percent, adding 2,900 jobs.
The left-leaning N.C. Budget & Tax Center called the unemployment figures the latest proof that Charlotte and Raleigh are faring far better in the recession’s wake than the state’s more rural areas.
While Charlotte and Raleigh have both gained more than 21,000 jobs over the past year, Fayetteville lost 600 jobs and Rocky Mount added just 200, a job growth rate that would require another four decades to replace all the jobs lost during the recession.
“May’s local jobs report makes it clear that the current economic recovery is concentrated in just a handful of metros, bypassing much of the rest of the state,” said Allan Freyer, an analyst with the center.
The state is gaining about 5,500 jobs a month, said John Quinterno, principal of South by North Strategies, a Chapel Hill-based research firm.
At that rate, North Carolina won’t match its pre-recession payroll jobs level until early next year.
“We’re grinding away at more or less the same basic pace,” he said. Assuming the state matches its pre-recession job levels early next year, “that means it would have taken a little over seven years to get back to the number of jobs we had in 2007. That’s not normal, that’s not healthy, that’s not the sign of a good healthy labor market that’s generating jobs for people who want to go to work.”