RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s unemployment rate was unchanged last month at 9.4 percent, breaking a four-month streak of declining unemployment rates, state officials said Friday.
The total number of unemployed North Carolinians dropped by almost 4,000 people, but the rate remained the same because the size of the work force got smaller.
The rate was previously unwavering at 10.7 percent between July and September, but had been gradually declining since October.
North Carolina’s May unemployment rate is 1.1 percentage points lower than its May 2011 rate. The state fares worse than the national rate, which rose slightly to 8.2 percent in May.
“The NC state economy is continuing to not grow at a sufficient enough rate to put much of a dent in the unemployment rate,” said Harry Davis, professor of banking at Appalachian State University. “We simply are not creating enough jobs to lower the unemployment rate and absorb people entering the labor force.”
The largest job creation was in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector, which added nearly 2,000 jobs. Government jobs slightly declined by about 700 positions. Davis noted continued declines in the construction and leisure sectors as particularly problematic.
“It’s not making the comeback needed to get the unemployment rate down very much,” Davis said of the construction industry. “It continues to flounder, and if it wasn’t for apartment buildings there wouldn’t be much going on right now.”
The size of the work force in North Carolina continues to shrink. Nearly 10,000 workers left the labor force between April and May.
“Unfortunately, I believe we’re going to live with an unemployment rate in the 9 percents for quite some time, at least for the rest of the year,” Davis said. “Hopefully, that’s not the new norm.”
State Republicans quickly capitalized on the report, localizing national trends of both parties feuding over the North Carolina economy. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns have targeted North Carolina as a November battleground state and have been flooding the state with high-profile political figures to talk economics.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory and the Republican Governors Association issued press releases after the unemployment figures were released, criticizing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Walter Dalton’s economic views. Dalton’s camp responded to the criticisms Friday evening defending his stances.
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