NC jobless rate dips to 5.7 percent in October

North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell a notch to 5.7 percent in October – putting the jobless rate precisely where it was 12 months ago.

The state Department of Commerce reported Friday that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 5.8 percent a month earlier.

“I would say this particular month’s numbers were weaker than expected,” said PNC economist Mekael Teshome, who expects the unemployment rate to continue to decline in the upcoming months.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate was as low as 5.3 percent earlier in the year, which at the time was better than the national average. But the state’s jobless rate has been worse than the national average since April; the national unemployment rate in October was 5 percent.

The number of unemployed workers across the state decreased by 2,042 during the month and now stands at 273,645. At the same time, however, the number of nonfarm jobs fell by 3,100.

The loss leader on the jobs front was the leisure and hospitality services sector, which lost 7,200 jobs. Education and health services jobs fell by 4,100.

On the up side, the state added 6,400 government jobs and 2,200 construction jobs.

“We had more people jumping in the market looking for work,” Teshome said. “But that’s not entirely a bad thing. Having a larger work force is good. It signifies confidence in the economy, but the side effect being the unemployment rate tends to elevate.”

Unemployed workers who are so discouraged that they aren’t actively looking for jobs aren’t counted as unemployed. So their return to the labor force impacts the unemployment rate.

Over the past 12 months, the number of nonfarm jobs in the state has risen by 91,000, or 2.2 percent. That’s stronger than the national economy, which has seen a 2 percent increase in jobs over the past 12 months, Teshome said.

But John Quinterno of South by North Strategies, a Chapel Hill firm specializing in economic and social policy, notes that the 62,400 jobs added across the state so far this year is less than the 81,600 added over the comparable period in 2014.

“So that puts it in perspective,” he said.

Although the state has been adding jobs at a slow-but-steady pace overall and now has 97,500 more jobs than it did when the recession started, “replacing the jobs that we lost isn’t necessarily enough,” Quinterno added. “That doesn’t account for the jobs that we should have added during (the recession) but didn’t.”

That’s why, even today, we’re seeing issues such as “slow to no wage growth,” he said.

The October unemployment numbers for the Triangle and other localities across the state are scheduled to be released Dec. 7.

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii