RALEIGH – North Carolina’s unemployment rate rose to 3.8% in October 2022, the third consecutive month where the rate has increased following a lengthy period of historically low statewide unemployment.

The latest report from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics classified the month-over-month increase as statistically significant as the unemployment rate rose from 3.6% in September to 3.8% in October.

“This report shows North Carolina losing over 10,000 jobs in October, with almost the exact number showing up as increased unemployment,” said Dr. Michael Walden, an NCSU economist and a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire.  “There was also a slight increase in people dropping out of the labor force.  These numbers were responsible for the increase in the jobless rate from 3.6% to 3.8% and the reduction in the labor force participation rate from 60.6% to 60.5%.”

Unemployment rate rises – for second straight month – now 3.6% in NC

Sign of ‘distress’?

And there are some interpretations from the latest employment reports that could mean the state and national economies are showing some signs of distress, explained Walden.

“The reports are saying fewer households are working, but those that are working are holding more jobs.  This would mean fewer people are working, but more working people are holding multiple jobs,” said Walden.  “If accurate, this interpretation could be taken as a sign of distress. Fewer people hold jobs, but for those that do have jobs, more have multiple jobs perhaps to earn more income to keep up with rising prices.”

Following the release of the better-than-expected October jobs report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this month, Christian Lundblad, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, noted that the Federal Reserve may have no choice but to “engineer” a recession.

UNC Professor: US jobs report means Fed may have ‘no choice’ but to ‘engineer a recession’


In context, maybe not ‘economically meaningful’

Nationwide, the unemployment rate also rose, increasing from 3.5% in September to 3.7% in October, according to the data.

“What happened to North Carolina is similar to the US national unemployment numbers,” said Dr. Gerald Cohen, chief economist at the Kenan Institute on Friday.  “Both rates ticked up by 0.2% with the force down – ever so slightly – and the number of unemployed up.”

And the survey on which this data reports is “quite volatile” from month to month, noted Cohen.  “So it’s hard to know if this is the start of a trend or just month-to-month volatility.”

Even with the unemployment rate rising in each of the prior three months, North Carolina’s unemployment rate remains 0.6% below where it stood in October 2021.

“The number of people employed decreased 10,310 over the month to 4,933,609 and increased 154,352 over the year,” reads a statement from the North Carolina Department of Commerce released on Friday. “The number of people unemployed increased 9,944 over the month to 194,125 and decreased 23,846 over the year.”

And, added Cohen, given the continued strength of the payroll employment report, also known as the monthly jobs report, “I think the rise in the unemployment is not economically meaningful.”