RALEIGH – Nearly 16,000 people joined North Carolina’s ranks of workers and the number of unemployed fell by nearly 5,000 – enough of a change to lower the state’s seasonably adjusted jobless rate to 3.5% in March, according to data released by the N.C. Department of Commerce on Friday.

“A good report,” said N.C. Sate economist Dr. Mike Walden when asked by WRAL TechWire to review the news.

The N.C. jobless rate matches the U.S. number and is a 0.1% drop from February. The rate stood at 3.8% in January.

“Steady and modest improvements in employment and jobs,” Walden added. “The movement away from technology and to leisure/hospitality, health care, and personal services continued.”

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The state’s tech sector has been hit by layoffs – including recent cuts at Lenovo, IBM and IBM spinoff Kyndryl. At the same time the number of advertised information technology jobs has fallen to record lows, according to the N.C. Technology Association.

As Walden has stressed before the tech sector expanded significantly during the COVID pandemic and as consumer demand has returned to more conventional habits tech growth has fallen. Meanwhile, more demand for travel and things such as dining out is driving up demand for talent in leisure and hospitality.

“This [shifts in numbers] represents a move toward the pre-pandemic economy, which I think will go on for a few more months,” Walden explained. ” I see gains in the job market through the summer and early fall.”

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However, Walden has predicted an economic downtown by year’s end – possibly even a recession – thanks to increasing interest rates from the Federal Reserve in its fight against inflation/

“The turning point to modest job losses will come at year’s end,” Walden said. “Now is the time for workers and business to plan a cushion for more challenging times.”

In the report the Department of Commerce broke down job gains ad losses by sector:

“Seasonally adjusted Total Nonfarm employment, as gathered through the monthly establishment survey, increased 7,000 to 4,891,600 in March. Major industries experiencing increases were Education & Health Services, 2,900; Leisure & Hospitality Services, 2,400; Other Services, 1,100; Professional & Business Services, 800; Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 800; and Mining & Logging, 200. Major industries experiencing decreases were Financial Activities, 700; Information, 300; and Construction, 200. Government and Manufacturing employment remained unchanged.”

So far this year North Carolina’s economy has added more than 15,000 jobs while unemployment is down almost 11,000.

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