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N.C. unemployment rate up to 5.7 percent in May

Attendees gather at Central Piedmont Community College’s career fair in March. On Friday, the North Carolina Department of Commerce reported the state’s unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent in May.
Attendees gather at Central Piedmont Community College’s career fair in March. On Friday, the North Carolina Department of Commerce reported the state’s unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent in May. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

North Carolina’s unemployment rate stood at 5.7 percent in May, down from a year ago but up slightly from April, the state Department of Commerce said Friday.

Just under 17,000 North Carolinians found jobs in May. The state has added 108,800 jobs since a year ago, the Commerce Department said.

The jobless figure ticked up from April’s 5.5 percent, but is lower than than last year’s 6.3 percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate is up 0.1 percentage points from April, to 5.5 percent. Economists nationwide have said these small increases in the unemployment rate are due to more formerly-discouraged workers entering the workforce – proof, they say, of a resurgent economy.

However, Rick Kaglic, a Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond economist based in Charlotte, said the increase in labor could be a misnomer because of how it’s measured on a regional level and might imply more “slack” – excess supply – in the labor market than there actually is.

The economist added his discussions with people in the private sector lead him to believe there’s more “hiring” than “firing” going on and some industries are still facing a shortage of skilled workers.

Trade, transportation and utilities was the only sector of the North Carolina economy not to see job growth from April’s numbers. The construction sector, hard-hit by the housing crisis, continued its resurgence, adding 2,400 jobs in May and overall employment growing by 8.8 percent over the year.

Kaglic said the diverse North Carolina economy, with its broad-based employment gains across almost every part of the private sector, appears to be “hitting on all cylinders.”

Wages are also up slightly in the state. The average hourly wage rose to $17.02 from $16.81 a year ago.

South Carolina also saw a slight increase in May. Its jobless rate ticked up a tenth of a percentage point from April, to 6.8 percent.

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