Becky Wickel

NORTH CAROLINA UNEMPLOYMENT BREAKS FOUR YEAR LOW

North Carolina’s April unemployment rate decreased to 8.9 percent from March’s
9.2 percent, according to a report released by the Department of Commerce May 17. This employment increase surpasses the change in the national average, which fell only .1 percent since last month.

Although the country’s change is happening slower, unemployment in North Carolina is still above the national average, 7.5 percent. According to North Carolina State University professor Michael Walden, that’s not the only statistic residents should worry about.

UNEMPLOYMENT DECREASE NOT REPRESENTATIVE CHANGE

“The (unemployment) rate is still above pre-recessionary levels, and job growth has been slow by the standards of past economic recoveries,” he said.

Walden said he believes North Carolina, the state with the fifth highest unemployment rate, should consider this a moderate success. In addition to slow growth, North Carolina saw 4,188 fewer people employed in April. Despite this decrease, unemployment likely fell because of fewer people seeking employment, according to Tom Brinkley, Elon University’s director of employer and corporate relations.

 

But this decrease in the number of employed North Carolinians is not reflective of the state’s entire year. According to Larry Parker, acting public information director at the Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security, North Carolina has added 75,300 jobs throughout the last year.

COLLEGE STUDENTS UNLIKELY TO FACE CHRONIC UNEMPLOYMENT

In spite of this varying employment landscape, college students are in a fair position to enter the workforce, Walden said.

“College grads this year will face a much better job market than in the past four years, but still not a great job market,” he sad. “Companies are hiring again, but there are still many applicants for each job.”

Brinkley and Walden agreed job prospects favor students entering the science, technology and business sectors. Their confidence was echoed by Elon University freshman Gerald Moe, who said his computer engineering background offers security.

“The technology field has become central to a lot of things going around,” Moe said. “I don’t think I’m going to have much of an issue.”

According to Brinkley, unemployment in North Carolina is often a consequence of decreases in traditional manufacturing and agriculture, once staples of the state’s economy. In fact, the Department of Commerce reported 73,300 nonfarm jobs have been added to the North Carolina workforce since April 2012.

The major difference for recent graduates, Brinkley said, is the definition of chronic unemployment according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Those considered unemployed are irrespective of job attachment and not seeking employment. According to Brinkley, most students do not fall into that category.

FORCES CHANGING NORTH CAROLINA’S EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK

North Carolina’s unemployment rate has been a topic of conversation for most of the past year. In February, Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a bill that drastically cut benefits for jobless workers as of July 1. Nearly 170,000 North Carolinians collecting unemployment are expected to lose extra federal benefits.

McCrory’s new law is not the only change. The state has been working to add jobs at a rate of 5.5 percent, now surpassing the country’s 4.5 percent, according to Walden.

Walden also said North Carolina is now fully transitioned from traditional textile and furniture industries. In addition, the state attracts a large quantity of residents relocating from other, more expensive cities who are considered unemployed in North Carolina until they find work.

Looking ahead, economists expect more decreases in unemployment within the state.

“Things are improved, but still with lingering problems, particularly for workers with high school degrees or less or with outdated skills,” he said. “The economy is moving, albeit slowly.”