The Associated Press May 18, 2012, 3:47PM ET

NC unemployment rate continues slow decline

People leaving the labor force were a big reason that North Carolina's unemployment rate dropped to 9.4 percent in April, a month when only 1,400 more people got jobs.

The rate dropped from 9.7 percent in March and a percentage point from April a year ago, according to the figures from the state Division of Labor and Economic Analysis. The rate was stuck at 10.7 percent from July to September, then started a slow decline in October.

More than 11,000 people left the labor force in April compared to May, the figures show. More than 21,000 people have joined the North Carolina labor force since April a year ago.

"The bulk cause of this is the labor force decreased," division spokesman Larry Parker said of the monthly decrease.

People leave the labor force for many reasons, he said: They quit looking for work; they retire; or they might move. The decrease isn't related to the demise of extended benefits, which ended last week for about 17,000 people, he said.

The number of unemployed decreased by 12,686 to 439,368 over the month, while the number of employed increased by 1,471 to more than 4.2 million over the month and by 63,513 over the year.

North Carolina's unemployment continues to be higher than the national rate, which fell slightly to 8.1 percent in April.

"North Carolina's recovery has been slower than the U.S. on average," said John Coleman, an economics professor at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. "It's taken longer for North Carolina to recover, probably, because we're still making that painful exit from the manufacturing sector, which is not an easy process."

Nonfarm industry employment decreased by 1,300 from March to April while gaining more than 30,000 jobs over the 12 months. The major industry that had the largest monthly increase was professional and business services, which gained 3,600 jobs.

"The service sector is coming around and pushing North Carolina forward, a trend that's been in place for over a couple of decades," Coleman said.

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Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc


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