North Carolina’s unemployment rate took a sharp turn downward in December, suggesting a rapid economic turnaround, but economists warned that the statistics are distorting a more sober reality.
The state’s December rate tumbled to 6.9 percent from 7.4 percent the month before, a level last seen in September 2008. The jobless rate a year earlier, in December 2012, was 9.4 percent. ( Read more on the numbers here.)
It didn’t take long for the political spin to cast those numbers in a certain light.
Gov. Pat McCrory cited the data as a validation of Republican economic policies.
“The trend of more people getting back to work in North Carolina is great news for our state,” McCrory said in a statement. “We continue to see that our pro-growth and pro-jobs policies enacted over the last year are having a positive impact and getting people into jobs.”
Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate, echoed the governor.
“This is more evidence that our policies are helping North Carolinians get back to work,” Tillis said in a prepared statement from his legislative office. “We will continue to implement policies that will enable our citizens to go back to work.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers piled on, using McCrory’s “comeback” mantra. “North Carolina is witnessing an economic comeback – and this is no accident,” she said, crediting state GOP leaders for the shift.
But Allan Freyer, an analyst at the N.C. Justice Center, which opposes most of the Republican economic policies, said the picture is distorted. “Only 1 out of every 10 formerly unemployed workers found jobs in the last year,” he said in a statement. “At a time when there is just one available job opening for every three unemployed workers who need it, it’s no surprise that so few of North Carolina’s jobless workers are actually finding jobs.”