NC Jobless Rate Down After Previous Month's Uptick

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's unemployment rate edged back down to 9.6 percent in September, the same level as July after an uptick in August, data released Friday by the state Commerce Department showed.

The last look at unemployment trends before Election Day showed the fractional drop again left North Carolina with the fifth-highest unemployment rate among states behind only Nevada, Rhode Island, California, and New Jersey.

The number of people unemployed in North Carolina fell by 3,576 in September to 448,332. The number of people employed increased by 29,232 in September to 4.2 million and those either working or looking for work increased by 25,656. New unemployment claims totaled 42,362 in September, a 21 percent drop from August. Four out of ten initial claims in September involved workers who were expected to be recalled to their jobs.

"Overall it's kind of a holding steady with just marginal increases in the direction we'd like to see it go but moving at a much slower pace than most people would like to see it go," Barton College economics professor John Bethune said.

About 62,000 more workers were drawing paychecks than this time last year, when the state unemployment rate was 10.7 percent.

While the state's jobless rate dropped to 9.4 percent from April through June, it has ticked up since then as employers took stock of their needs, sales, production demands, and the elections, now less than three weeks away. With tax rates and health insurance coverage and costs at the center of the presidential and congressional contests, employers are waiting to see whose policies prevail, Bethune said.

"The business people I talk to say they don't know what a worker will cost them in 2013," he said. "There's just a lot of uncertainty and a lot of people are reluctant to hire or to make any bold moves at this point. People are waiting for the election to see what happens and then whoever wins more certainty will be established."

John Patterson, 25, of Charlotte, doesn't have to look at unemployment numbers. He just knows things aren't good in North Carolina.

Patterson recently graduated from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte with a business degree. He has been sending out resumes and had a handful of interviews, but he's still unemployed. Many of his school friends haven't found work either, and some have talked about leaving Charlotte to try to land a job, Patterson said.

"I don't want to do that. I grew up here. But I didn't think I would still be living with my parents," he said.

Patterson said he voted for President Barack Obama four years ago, but he's not sure he'll do the same this November.

"Things really haven't changed, have they? I mean too many people are still out of work," Patterson said.

Melanie Davidson, 52, of Charlotte, is a financial planner. She says the September's unemployment numbers show the state's economy is still struggling. That, she says, will hurt Obama in North Carolina.

"I'm a Democrat and I support the president, but this doesn't help him here," she said. "We still have too many people without jobs."

North Carolina's largest city is a major banking center, home to Bank of America Corp. and a regional hub for Wells Fargo, which bought Charlotte-based Wachovia Bank a few years ago. But the city lost thousands of good-paying financial sector jobs during the economic collapse. Davidson said some of her friends who worked at the banks were laid off when the financial institutions tried to cut costs.

"I know the economy is coming back. Some of my friends have found work in Charlotte in the last few months. But it's still going to take some time for a full recovery," she said.

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Associated Press writer Mitch Weiss in Charlotte contributed to this report.

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Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio

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