AP News

NC unemployment rate up slightly to 9.7 percent


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's unemployment rate ticked up to 9.7 percent in August with 5,952 more people reported as jobless than the previous month, the state Commerce Department said Friday.

It was the second straight month the state's unemployment rate rose slightly, leaving North Carolina with the fifth-highest jobless rate in the country. The national unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in August, down from 8.3 percent the previous month

The jobless data shows almost 452,000 people in North Carolina who want to work but don't have jobs.

The jobs picture has improved significantly over the past year, with nearly 40,635 more people drawing paychecks and 47,538 fewer North Carolinians unemployed since August 2011. The state's unemployment rate is 1 percentage point lower than a year ago.

But the report also shows a reversal in what had appeared to be improvements earlier this year. August's unemployment rate climbed back up to the level last seen in March, before it dropped to 9.4 percent for three straight months this spring.

"The unfortunate news is that the unemployment rate is creeping back up," said Stanley Black, an economist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Compared to a year ago, we're still ahead of where we were, but we're not improving at this current moment."

Black pins much of the blame on stalemate in Washington, leaving businesses to hold off hiring until they know the results of the November elections. The inability of Republicans in Congress and Democrat President Barack Obama's administration to agree on taxing and spending has led businesses to wait to see which of their parties' very different priorities will win out in the public's decisions for president, North Carolina governor, and control of Congress and the legislature, Black said.

Businesses are "being a little slow because they just aren't quite sure in what's going to happen," he said.

Businesses that make things like aren't ramping up hiring, a problem since almost 22 percent of the state's economy was based on manufacturing before the Great Recession hit in December 2007 compared to the national average of 13 percent, according to a recent report by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Global Research Institute.

"Certainly that has factored into the political campaign somewhat — the question of whether or not our manufacturing sector nationally can be revived. If it is to some extent, that will help us" in North Carolina, Black said. "But if it isn't, we're pretty vulnerable there."

Construction lost 3,400 jobs in August over the previous month and manufacturing companies shed 2,300 jobs. That reverses a previous trend that shows manufacturing companies added 4,200 since August 2011.

Government had the largest job gains in August, adding 8,400 jobs as teachers were hired for schools coming back into session. The state Commerce Department said the industry employment estimates are subject to large seasonal patterns making the month-to-month comparisons less reliable than the year-over-year data. Governments have cut 3,800 jobs in the past year, the agency reported.

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Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio


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