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Business & Economy

Unemployment Shrinks With North Carolina’s Labor Force

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The state unemployment rate is dropping, but the labor force is also shrinking. 

The North Carolina Department of Commerce reports unemployment fell from 8.8 percent in January 2013 to 6.7 percent in January 2014.  But that number doesn't include people who have stopped looking for work.  The state's labor force is made up of people who work or are trying to find jobs, and that pool shrank by more than 60,000 people during the year. 

North Carolina State University Economist Michael Walden said 2013 was somewhat of a disappointing year for job growth.

“Not that we didn't add jobs,” he qualified. “We didn't add jobs at an accelerated pace.”

The private sector added 72,000 jobs, while government jobs decreased by 2,000.

This January's unemployment rate is very small improvement over December's 6.9 percent.  Walden says weather might be a factor.  He said winter storms could have halted efforts to fill vacant positions or hire new workers.

'Restaurants, for example, bad weather keeping people away, so businesses may have decided to pull back a little bit.' - Michael Walden

“They may very well have delayed that due to the bad weather, either problems with getting people in to interview, or simply saying well, we don't need those folks now, because we're kind of backlogged, can't get our orders out,” Walden said. “Temporary employment, same thing. Restaurants, for example, bad weather keeping people away, so businesses may have decided to pull back a little bit.”

Walden says the strongest job growth over the past year occurred in the professional and business sector followed by health and education.  But he says it's a good sign that the construction industry is bouncing back after the recession, giving unskilled workers more job options.

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