RALEIGH – Despite increasing interest rates and growing concerns about the nation’s banking industry North Carolina’s jobs report for February delivered a does of “upbeat news,” says N.C. State economist Dr. Mike Walden.

The state reported a drop in unemployment to 3.6% in February from 3.8% in January, according to Department of Commerce data which was seasonally adjusted.

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“The February labor market report for North Carolina showed showed good job growth, but much less that the very robust growth in the January report,” Walden tells WRAL TechWire. “All the major indicators were upbeat, including gains in households working, gains in households actively in the labor force, gains in jobs at businesses, and a drop in the statewide unemployment rate.”

The jobless rate is 0.2 percentage points higher than a year ago but the report says more than 7,900 people were added to the ranks of those working compared to January. Employment now stands at 4.98 million.

N.C. DOC chart          

However, Walden saw a couple of disappointing signs.

“Perhaps the one disappointment was no improvement in the labor force participation rate, which was unchanged at 60.4% and is still below pre-pandemic levels,” Walden says.

He also notes that some 1,300 jobs were cut in the tech sector while more traditional jobs grew – a flip of what happened during the COVID pandemic.

“Maybe the most interesting part of the report is where jobs are being created and what sectors are cutting jobs.  The information sector (tech), which boomed during the pandemic, is clearly retreating, with a cut of 1300 jobs in the State in February,” he explains.

The news reflects a recent report from the N.C. Technology Association that found tech job openings fell last month to their lowest level in several years.

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Other sectors are bouncing back, however.

“The largest job gainers were education and health services, government, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing.  These were all sectors that experienced major labor shortages as the economy reopened,” Walden says.

” Now, in recent months, these sectors have been adding large numbers of employees.  This suggests that some of the labor shifts we’ve seen in the post-pandemic economy are being undone, with much of the change likely due to the downsizing of the tech sector.  The North Carolina will still see large job shifts in the future, but perhaps not as fast as we once thought.”