RALEIGH – Never have this many people been working in North Carolina. And the job environment is going to continue improving, according to an NCSU economist.

Monthly employment data from the North Carolina Department of Commerce for July shows that 4,800,611 people were employed as the state’s economy produced 13,077 more jobs.

Responding to a query from WRAL TechWire, a Commerce spokesperson confirmed a record had been set.

“Yes, the total number of persons employed in North Carolina is at a record high,” said David Rhoades, communications director for the department.

NCSU economist Dr. Mike Walden pointed out: “We have now far exceeded pre-Great Recession [2008] highs in employment.”

The state reported that the unemployment rate declined to 4.1 percent from 4.2 percent in June and is down year-over-year from 4.4 percent. Over the past 12 months, jobs have increased by more than 70,000 while the number of people unemployed fell 13,678 to 203,407.

“Now, the unemployment rate is lower than it’s been since 2000,” Rhoades said.

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And the good times aren’t over, according to Walden.

Walden said the numbers reflect what he reported in his new monthly index of North Carolina’s economy and added that the trend of job growth should continue.

“This should  be the best year for the job market in North Carolina in over a decade.,” he said.

“The big question is – will it continue?

“I am confident the answer is ‘yes’ for 2019, but less so for 2020.”

North Carolina remains in the running for major jobs projects, such as Amazon HQ2 and a new Apple campus. WRAL TechWire also has reported that the Triangle and state is competing for numerous other corporate expanions and additional jobs.

In the new report, Walden forecasts:

  • North Carolina real Gross State Product is forecasted to increase 3.2% in 2018 and 3.4% in 2019.
  • Payroll employment growth in North Carolina is expected to exceed national payroll employment growth in 2018.
  • The end-of-the-year “headline” unemployment rate in the state is projected to be 4.1% in 2018 and 3.8% in 2019, with 75,000 payroll jobs added in each of the years.

Commerce’s Rhoades pointed out that the number of people out-of-work is not at a record low, however.

“The number of persons unemployed in North Carolina is neither at a record high nor low,” he said.

NC growth now surpassing US

“This [state jobless] report continues a series of strong employment reports for the state, reflecting both strong national and state economies,” he told WRAL TechWire.

North Carolina’s jobless rate remains slightly higher than the national 3.9 average, but Walden pointed out: “North Carolina’s growth is actually running ahead of national growth, primarily due to in-migration of workers and our strong business conditions.”

As hundreds of people turned out for a jobs fair put on by WRAL this week, signs continue that employers continue to want to add workers across a broad spectrum – from high tech to construction, professional services and manufacturing.

For example, employers across North Carolina have more than 23,000 unfilled high-tech related jobs, according to the North Carolina Technology Association. And recent surveys from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants as well as the National Federation of Independent Small Business report optimism for creation remains strong.

“Professional and information are adding jobs at high rates – particularly in the urban areas,” Walden said.

“But, as my report stated,  job growth outside urban regions was faster than in many metro areas like Charlotte.  This tells me tight labor markets in the big cities are motivating firms to expand their search to previously overlooked areas.”

He also said job growth remains strong in several other sectors.

“The strength in manufacturing and construction jobs is still part of a rebound from the Great Recession and also currently high business optimism,” Walden noted.

Hot job sectors

According to the Department of Commerce, the strongest areas of job creation lat month were:

  • Professional and Business Services at 4,600
  • Government, 4,500
  • Manufacturing, 1,700
  • Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 1,600
  • Construction, 1,100
  • Information, 600
  • Education & Health Services, 100

Over the past year, high-tech and professional services hiring has been particularly strong.

  • Professional & Business Services, 25,800
  • Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 20,800
  • Education & Health Services, 14,700
  • Construction, 11,000
  • Manufacturing, 8,600
  • Leisure & Hospitality Services, 8,200
  • Information, 6,300
  • Government, 5,700
  • Financial Activities, 4,500
  • Other Services, 1,100

Looking ahead, Walden does believe the unemployment rate may not drop much lower.

“I think we are close to a low in the “headline” jobless rate, which moves around not only due to job growth, but also as individuals who had stopped looking for work begin returning – something than can raise the unemployment rate.,” he explained.
“However, the broadest jobless rate (U6) – which includes discouraged workers who have stopped looking for work as well as part-time workers who prefer full-time jobs – is now lower in NC than in the nation.”