North Carolina’s jobless rate dipped to 4.7 percent in April, the lowest in nearly a decade.
But the economic figures were not necessarily positive, as a survey of businesses showed that the state lost 7,000 jobs for the month.
Rick Kaglic, a senior regional economist at the Charlotte Branch of the Richmond Federal Reserve, characterized the April jobless report as “the ugly duckling of the past year or so.”
The seasonally adjusted figures were issued Friday morning by the N.C. Department of Commerce. The data show that North Carolina’s jobless rate has fallen from 5 percent one year ago, but climbed back up as high as 5.3 percent in January before resuming its decline.
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Still, the jobless rate is just one measure among many to assess economic health.
N.C. State University economist Michael Walden said the state’s jobless rate fell largely because the labor force shrunk by 5,209 people. The labor force includes workers and job seekers, and a reduction of the pool will reduce the jobless rate even though a shrinking labor force is regarded as unhealthy.
In the past year, however, North Carolina’s labor force has grown by 99,603 people, or 2.1 percent. During that time, the state added 53,300 non-farm jobs.
The loss of 7,000 jobs in one month was significant enough to result in an average annual job growth of just 1.2 percent for the state, putting the state below the national average.
Kaglic said in his meetings he keeps hearing from business executives that they are hiring and are having trouble filling openings. But he acknowledged that April’s jobless data told a different story. For example, the state’s construction sector lost 3,600 jobs in April and is now down to 0 percent growth for the year, after posting very strong showings in previous months.
“One month does not make a trend,” Kaglic said. “It’s one of those months where you maybe wait for the next month’s data.”