RALEIGH – The latest county- and metro-area data on employment from the North Carolina Department of Commerce is an indication that across North Carolina, there’s a slowdown occurring in the labor market.

That’s according to Dr. Mike Walden, an economist and a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University, who provided an analysis of the latest data, released on Wednesday morning.

“It is significant that there was an increase in the unemployment rate in December 2022 compared to the jobless rate in 2021 in 47 of the state’s 100 counties,” said Walden, noting that a year-over-year comparison is a better way to compare and contrast employment data than looking at monthly, non-seasonally-adjusted changes.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce notes that, as well.

“Employment estimates are subject to large seasonal patterns; therefore, it is advisable to focus on over-the-year changes in the not seasonally adjusted estimates,” a statement released by the department reads.

So while the unemployment rate decreased in 96 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in December 2022 compared to November 2022, the changes in labor markets across the state compared to a year prior are of concern, Walden told WRAL TechWire.  The prior report showed that unemployment increased in 99 of the 100 counties, month-over-month, while the most recent report released on Wednesday showed a decrease in unemployment, month-over-month, in 96 of the state’s 100 counties.

“I interpret these results as an indication of a slowdown in the state labor market, and possibly a contraction in some counties.”

Unemployment increases in all NC metro areas, 99 of 100 counties

What’s the unemployment rate in the Triangle?

Wake County’s unemployment rate was 2.6% as of December 2022, the data showed.  That’s the fifth lowest unemployment rate of any of North Carolina’s 100 counties, and is a decrease from the prior month, when the unemployment rate was 3.1%.  But it’s the same rate as measured one year ago, the data show.

In Durham County, the unemployment rate was measured to be 2.7% in December 2022, the 10th lowest rate of the state’s 100 counties.  But like Wake County, that’s the same rate measured one year prior, despite a decrease in the unemployment rate from November 2022, when it was 3.2%.

In Orange County, the unemployment rate was 2.5% in December 2022, which is tied with Buncombe, Greene, and Watauga Counties for the lowest unemployment rate of the state’s 100 counties.  But that’s an increase compared to a year ago, when the rate was 2.2%, the data show.

Across the Raleigh metropolitan statistical area, which includes Wake, Johnston, and Franklin Counties, the unemployment rate is 2.7%, the same as one year ago.  And the Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan statistical area had an unemployment rate of 2.6%, also the same as one year ago.

A recession without job losses? That’s real possibility, says NC State economist