RALEIGH – North Carolina’s unemployment rate rose to 3.6% in September as the number of people working in the state decreased.

And the number of unemployed workers increased in September, as well, according to the latest data release from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“The September labor force data released for North Carolina today unfortunately gives some mixed signals about the economy,” said Dr. Mike Walden, an economist and WRAL TechWire contributor.

Report: Triangle economy is sizzling, ranking as 4th fastest-growing metro in U.S.

NC’s mixed signals

North Carolina’s labor economy has typically outperformed the nation following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And some regions of the state are among the best in the nation.

But the latest employment data still shows some mixed signals, Walden said.

For example, there were job gains in the economy but it appears that workers may have added second or third jobs rather than new workers or unemployed workers entering the workforce, Walden noted, adding that the decrease in the number of employed people in North Carolina was the first drop since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This can be read as a sign of some stress in the economy, likely caused by prices rising faster than labor earnings,” said Walden.  “With so many job openings, we may need to focus on alternative measures of labor market issues beyond the traditional measure of a rise in unemployment. “

While North Carolina’s unemployment rate increased, the national unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%, marking the first time this year where the state unemployment rate is higher than the national unemployment rate according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state’s unemployment rate also increased in August 2022, the first time that North Carolina’s unemployment rate increased month-over-month since April 2020 following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An online dashboard maintained by the North Carolina Department of Commerce also shows that the number of job openings in North Carolina decreased by 3.2% last month compared to the prior month of data, and building permits dropped by 1.5% as well.

And the number of unemployed workers rose by 2.6% from the month before, increasing by 4,699 workers in September.  Now, a total of 184,220 people are unemployed in North Carolina, according to the data from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

Even with the latest increase, the total number of unemployed workers in North Carolina decreased by more than 42,500 workers since a year ago, and the unemployment rate decreased by 0.9 percentage points from September 2021 when it was 4.5%.

NC’s unemployment rate increased in August

These industries made job gains

According to a statement from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, these are the employment sectors of North Carolina’s economy that added workers in September:

  • Leisure & Hospitality Services, 10,300;
  • Professional & Business Services, 6,700;
  • Education & Health Services, 2,200;
  • Other Services, 1,000;
  • Construction, 800;
  • Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 200; and
  • Mining & Logging, 100

But there were sectors that saw a decrease in employment, as well, including:

  • Government, 2,200;
  • Financial Activities, 700;
  • Manufacturing, 700; and
  • Information, 300

“Job creation continues in North Carolina, but it appears more people are taking second or third jobs,” said Walden.  “Labor market concerns may first be seen when individuals already with jobs are compelled to accept additional jobs in order to make ends meet.”

In the Triangle, there are still more open jobs than there are unemployed workers.  Still, the latest WRAL TechWire Jobs Report shows that job boards are sending somewhat mixed signals about the labor economy.

Job boards keep sending mixed signals on employment – down this week

Annual job gains by sector

Compared to a year ago, only the Mining & Logging sector saw no change in employment.  But here’s how each industry sector has changed, with regard to employed workers, from a year ago, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce:

  • Professional & Business Services, 57,900;
  • Leisure & Hospitality Services, 53,500;
  • Education & Health Services, 27,800;
  • Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 17,000;
  • Manufacturing, 11,600;
  • Construction, 9,600;
  • Financial Activities, 9,000;
  • Other Services, 8,000;
  • Information, 4,500; and
  • Government, 3,900.

Who is hiring in Triangle? These 40 firms are looking for 4,000 people