Triad jobless rate drops to 8.3 percent in August

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The return of public-school teachers to the classroom, along with a bump in health services and retail jobs, led to a nearly 1 percentage point drop in the Triad’s jobless rate to 8.3 percent during August, the N.C. Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

The rate was 9.9 percent in August 2012.

A combined 6,500 government jobs were gained in the Winston-Salem and Greensboro-High Point metropolitan statistical areas during the month. Teachers are listed as unemployed by the state agency once their school-year contract ends and are listed as re-employed when the new contract year begins.

The jobless rate for the Winston-Salem MSA dropped to 7.7 percent in August compared with 8.6 percent in July and 9.3 percent in August 2012.

“Year-over-year change is the most meaningful statistic to look at, and both Triad metro areas had a 1.6 percentage point drop in the jobless rate,” said Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University.

The MSA is comprised of Davie, Forsyth, Stokes and Yadkin counties. Davidson County was grafted into the MSA earlier this year by the federal government, but its employment data has not been inserted yet into the MSA.

The jobless rate for Forsyth fell to 7.8 percent from 8.8 percent in July and from 9.5 percent in August 2012.

Excluding government jobs, there was a net gain of 1,200 private-sector jobs in the Winston-Salem MSA. The biggest net gain was 600 jobs in education and health services; 500 in trade, transportation and utilities; and 200 each in leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services.

The biggest losses were 100 each in financial activities and in manufacturing.

The Greensboro-High Point MSA of Guilford, Randolph and Rockingham counties had a net gain of 3,900 government jobs and 2,000 private-sector jobs. It had a net gain of 2,300 jobs in the professional and business services and 900 in education and health services, along with a loss of 500 jobs each in trade, transportation and utilities, and in leisure and hospitality.

Rockingham County has the biggest decline in its jobless rate during August, going from 10.3 percent to 9.2 percent. All 14 counties in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina experienced a decrease.

The traditional jobless rate does not include several categories of people, including those who have stopped looking for work, are retired, are underemployed for their skills, are able to work full time but can get only part-time work, or are receiving severance packages after the elimination of a job. Nor does it include those who have exhausted their state and federal unemployment benefits.

A rate from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U6 index, includes those people. The latest update for North Carolina found 15.6 percent of adults without jobs as of June 30, compared with 13.7 percent nationally on Aug. 31.

It is the second month to reflect the reduction in state unemployment insurance benefits that took effect July 1.

Economists say it may take several months to determine whether the reduced jobless benefits — in weekly amount and number of weeks — and the promise of a quicker reduction of a $1.99 billion debt to the federal government will spur employers, particularly small businesses, to increase hiring.

At least 65,000 North Carolinians, including about 12,000 in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina, lost their federal extended UI benefits. Another 100,000 North Carolinians who would have become eligible for the benefits from July 1 until Dec. 31 also are affected, according to N.C. Justice Center data.

Legislators disqualified the state from federal extended benefits because they chose to alter North Carolina’s UI standards. As a result, North Carolina is the only state that has lost its federal extended benefits.

“Research shows a very, very modest incentive for such folks to accelerate their job search and perhaps accept jobs they wouldn’t have except for the cut in jobless benefits,” Walden said.