RALEIGH – A “very strong” jobs report is a good sign for North Carolina, says an NCSU economist, after the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.1% in October, according to the latest data from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

The state’s unemployment rate decreased month-over-month by 2 tenths of a percentage point, and the national unemployment rate in the United States fell by 0.2% in October, as well.  However, nationally, the unemployment rate was 4.6% in October.

“The October labor market report for North Carolina was very strong,” said Dr. Michael Walden, an economist and the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University.  That’s in part due to the drop in unemployment rate, the lowest rate in the state since March 2020, said Walden.

Additionally, a large gain in non-farm payroll employment occurred in October, said Walden.  According to the Department of Commerce report, that gain was 31,200 workers in one month, and compared to October 2020, the state’s labor market has added a net total of 151,400 jobs.

Image: North Carolina Department of Commerce. Caption: United States/North Carolina Unemployment Rates
October 2020–October 2021 (Seasonally Adjusted).

“The labor force grew, employment increased, hourly wages rose, and the number of unemployed dropped,” said Walden.  “This is the perfect recipe for a good job report.”

That includes gains across economic sectors, such as leisure and hospitality, and the retail sector in particular, where 12,800 jobs were added in October 2021.

“The only downside was in the labor force participation rate, or, the percentage of adults who are working or looking for work,” said Walden.

That mark remained unchanged at 59.3%, which Walden noted remained two percentage points below the measure’s pre-pandemic level.

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“Likely reasons are an increase in retirements during the pandemic, continuing fears among some about returning to the workforce, and issues for some parents finding child care, thereby causing some to stay out of the workforce,” said Walden.

Still, the data from the Department of Commerce shows a 2.9% decline in the total number of unemployed people in North Carolina, a decrease of 6,223 people who have now entered the workforce.

Some of those jobs likely came in the retail sector, as retailers prepare for a holiday season marked with some uncertainty surrounding supply chains.

Image: North Carolina Department of Commerce. Caption: Changes in Employment by NAICS Industries October 2020 Compared to October 2021 (Seasonally Adjusted)

“This is encouraging because those sectors have been among those having difficulty finding workers,” said Walden.  “The gains in these sectors may also indicate individuals are becoming more comfortable taking jobs requiring close personal contact, which these sectors do.”

Whether the gains in employment continue through the winter months, especially in retail and other leisure and hospitality roles, said Walden, “it will be a good sign that the labor market in North Carolina is moving to normal.”