North Carolina’s jobless rate dipped to 5.4 percent in April, the lowest in 8 years.
Other major economic indicators also improved in April, according to data issued Friday by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
The state’s April unemployment rate fell from 5.5 percent in March and from 5.8 percent in April 2015.
North Carolina’s jobless rate is still above the national average of 5 percent, however, and has hovered above the U.S. jobless rate for the past year. And by some measures, the state’s economy has not recovered to pre-recession levels. But most economists said the picture is improving.
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“The trend in the jobless rate seems credible to me,” said Wells Fargo Securities economist Mark Vitner. “North Carolina has been adding jobs faster than the nation for the past three years, so the gap between the state’s and nation’s unemployment rate should be narrowing.”
North Carolina’s economic recovery has been strongest in urban areas such as the Triangle and Charlotte, while rural counties have struggled to make up for the jobs lost during the recession. The Triangle’s jobless rate was 4.9 percent in March; the region’s April rate will be issued June 1.
April’s jobless rate decline was driven by 20,245 more people being employed that month than in March, an unusually high gain.
Data issued Friday also shows, based on a different survey, that North Carolina gained 1,000 non-farm jobs in April. The same survey shows 95,600 jobs added over the past year. Last month’s growth was largely in professional and business services and information. Manufacturing jobs and government jobs fell during the month.
At the same time, the labor force grew by 18,888 in April. Since the jobless rate also fell, that means the economy produced enough jobs to absorb April’s influx of job seekers.
“Overall, the state continues to add just about as many jobs as needed to keep up with the growth in the size of the labor force but not much more,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies in Chapel Hill.
However, the same jobless rate for April 2008 and April 2016 does not mean the situations are parallel, Quinterno said.
In April, there were nearly 19,000 more people out of work than there were eight years ago. At the same time, nearly 321,000 more people were working in April in than eight years ago.