The Triangle's jobless rate crept downward in November as the region added a modest amount of jobs to boost the local economy.
November's 8.1 percent jobless rate is down from 8.7 percent in October, according to data issued today by the N.C. Division of Employment Security. It's one of several measures that suggest the regional and national economy made gains at the end of 2011, said Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner, who seasonally adjusted the data for the N&O.
The Triangle jobless rate remains below the national average of 8.6 percent and the statewide averge of 10 percent. The Triangle includes Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Apex and Chapel Hill among other metro areas.
The Triangle added 1,900 non-farm jobs in November, mostly in education, health services, professional services and retail trade. But Vitner said that behind those growth numbers lurks a downside: Many of the new jobs were not likely the kind of high-paying positions that would signify a healthy economy.
So far this year, the Triangle has added 8,600 non-farm jobs. December's figures won't be known for several weeks, but it's clear that the region is still not anywhere near the normal job growth numbers of about 20,000 jobs added in a typical year.
Vitner noted that the region would have to add about 45,000 non-farm jobs in one year to bring the jobless rate down to about 5 percent.
The Triangle gained about 10,500 jobs in the first three months of 2011, then lost jobs for four consecutive months. The biggest single-month gain was 5,400 jobs added in October.
Vitner had predicted a year ago that the Triangle would add about 12,000 non-farm jobs this year, which could still happen if December makes a strong showing, he said.
The prognosis for 2012 is better than 2011. Vitner predicts the Triangle will gain 14,000 jobs in 2012. Economists expect the state, which has gained about 21,000 jobs through November 2011, to gain 40,000 to 50,000 jobs this year.
The jobs and unemployment numbers come from surveys that sample a small percentage of the state businesses. In February, more complete data will be released that will reflect the total number of jobs in the state, based on tax rolls, not on survey samples.