North Carolina’s unemployment rate inched upward for a third consecutive month even though the number of people with jobs continued to grow.
“Although the headline jobless rate rose, the report was actually positive,” N.C. State University Mike Walden wrote in an email.
The state Department of Commerce reported Friday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for November was 5.0 percent, up one-tenth of a percentage point from October. The jobless rate has been fluctuating between 4.6 percent and 5.1 percent since May.
The national unemployment rate fell three-tenths of a percentage point to 4.6 percent in November.
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Still, the state added 9,000 non-farm jobs in November.
“That was on top of nearly 17,000 net new jobs that were created during the prior two months,” said Richard Kaglic, an economist in the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. “This has been an exceptionally robust three-month period of job growth.”
Over the past 12 months the number of people with jobs increased by 81,800, or 1.9 percent. That’s ahead of the nationwide job growth of 1.6 percent during that span.
The increase in the unemployment rate despite that job growth is a function of the expansion of the labor force, which includes both those who have jobs plus those who are actively seeking work. The labor force expanded by 27,923 in November and has risen by 103,572 people in the past year.
“With that large of an influx of workers, the economy wasn’t able to absorb all of them,” Kaglic said. “So the unemployment rate edged up.”
Walden noted that the rise in the labor force actually is encouraging “because it suggests some individuals who had stopped looking for work ... have started looking again. This is a sign of optimism.”
Population growth, including in-migration of workers from other states, also plays a factor in a rising labor force.
The largest job growth in November was in the professional and business services sector, which added 4,800 jobs. In addition, the state added 3,600 leisure and hospitality jobs and 2,000 manufacturing jobs.
At the other end of the scale, the state lost 2,700 education and health services jobs and 1,800 government jobs.
November unemployment data for the Triangle is scheduled to be released Dec. 29. The Triangle’s unemployment rate in October was 4.4 percent.