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Source: N.C. Department of Commerce

Originally published: 2014-01-28 18:07:24
Last modified: 2014-01-28 18:08:10

Jobless rate continues fall

by Anna Oakes

North Carolina's unemployment rate in December fell below 7 percent for the first time since September 2008, according to figures released by the N.C. Department of Commerce Tuesday.

But various groups took turns interpreting the numbers, with state Republican leaders touting policies enacted during the past year and others arguing that job growth in 2013 was more sluggish than the year before.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 6.9 percent in December 2013, down from 7.4 percent in November and from 9.4 percent in December 2012, the department said. The state added 11,100 non-farm jobs in December and 64,500 jobs during the past year, an increase of 1.6 percent.

The governor's office quickly followed up the Tuesday morning rate announcement with a statement.

"We continue to see that our pro-growth and pro-jobs policies enacted over the last year are having a positive impact and getting people into jobs," Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, said in the release. "While this is welcome news, we will remain focused on policies that will encourage job growth -- not just for the short term, but for the long term to sustain the progress we have made."

Republican N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis weighed in with a statement as well, saying, "This is more evidence that our policies are helping North Carolinians get back to work. Our rapidly dropping unemployment rate in addition to increased jobs puts North Carolina's economic recovery among the fastest in the nation, and a leader in the Southeast. Federal jobs data shows that North Carolina's unemployment rate dropped further in one year than any other state in the nation."

The numbers of unemployed persons are derived from surveys conducted for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with an unemployed person being someone who has actively looked for a job within a four-week period.

While the number of those listed as unemployed in the state from December 2012 to December 2013 fell by 124,344, the number listed as employed only grew by 13,414 over the year -- meaning the labor force declined overall by 110,930, the department's figures show.

"The rest just gave up and dropped out of the labor force, meaning that just 11 percent of the drop in unemployed workers resulted from the jobless finding jobs," the N.C. Justice Center said in a statement. The center is a left-leaning research and advocacy organization.

The center noted that the 64,500 jobs gained from December 2012 to December 2013 were fewer than the 89,900 gained for the same period in 2012.

"Across every meaningful measure of labor market progress, 2013 was a worse year than 2012," said Allan Freyer, public policy analyst with the N.C. Justice Center's Budget & Tax Center project, in the statement.

The national unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in December, the commerce department said. Watauga County's jobless rate was 5.7 percent in November.