North Carolina’s unemployment rate increased to 4.9 percent in October from 4.7 percent in September, even as the state continued adding jobs.
The state’s jobless rate is down from 5.6 percent a year ago and appears to have stabilized, fluctuating between 4.6 percent and 4.9 percent during the past five months.
In October, the jobless rates in North Carolina and the United States were the same, following three months during which the state had been outperforming the national average. The state’s jobless rate typically falls below the national average when the economy is strong, but lags the rest of the nation during downturns.
The unemployment data was released Friday by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
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Other job market measures were also positive. The state added 5,700 non-farm jobs in October, and added 84,700 jobs over the past 12 months.
North Carolina added 20,166 workers to the employment rolls in October, and 113,006 over 12 months. The state’s labor force – the pool of workers and active job seekers – grew by 30,261 people in October and expanded by 81,424 people in the past year.
Most of the gain has come from professional and business services, growing 5,500 jobs in October and 27,400 jobs in the past 12 months. With broad job gains, only one category – information – saw a decline in the past year.
Still, October saw 10,095 more people among those who are unemployed, a consequence of the expansion of the labor force that month. In the past year, however, the number of unemployed people dropped by 31,582, a reduction of 11.7 percent, despite 1.7 percent expansion of the labor force.
“This is one of those months when the unemployment rate flashed a false signal,” said N.C. State University economist Michael Walden, by email. “The rise in the jobless rate was totally due to a very large number of individuals entering the labor force.”
Walden said an increase in the labor force signals growing confidence among job seekers.