RALEIGH – North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell for the fourth consecutive month in January, showing the state’s economy is “moving in the right direction.”

So says N.C. State economist Dr. Michael Walden after reviewing the latest job data from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

The January jobless rate declined to 5.9% in January, a drop from 6.1 percent in December. It’s the first time the unemployent rate was below 6% since the pandemic hit the state and the US a year ago.

And the rate is well under half the pandemic high of 13.5% in April and May of 2020. Compared to January of 2020, the employment news is not as good: The state is still down more than 190,000 jobs.

Before the pandemic, the North Carolina jobless rate was a mere 3.9%.

“We’re moving in the right direction, although all sectors didn’t see gains,” Walden told WRAL TechWire.

“Future months should be even better as vaccines and the relaxation of restrictions improve both business and consumer confidence.”

Growing number of new postings show Triangle’s job market remains hot

Walden cautioned that there is no guarantee the good news will continue.

“However, there are three continuing concerns,” he explained.

“Will the virus variants hit the US and cause a new spread – as they are doing in Europe?

“There are still significant numbers of people unemployed

“How many workers will find their jobs are permanently gone as more businesses shift to technology for performing tasks?”

NC Department of Commerce chart

Commerce data for January shows 9,882 jobs were added in January, led by:

  • Construction, 1,200
  • Information, 1,200
  • Leisure & Hospitality Services, 700
  • Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 400
  • Other Services, 200
  • Professional & Business Services, 100

Sectors seeing a decline in jobs included:

  • Education & Health Services, 2,900
  • Government, 1,600
  • Financial Activities, 1,400
  • Manufacturing, 1,100