RALEIGH – New data from the N.C. Department of Commerce for June reports more than 5 million people are working in the state and the unemployment rate is 3.6%. Two weeks ago, the state said 4.9 million people were working and the jobless rate was 3.3%. So what gives?

The numbers are based on “not seasonally adjusted” and “seasonally adjusted” numbers.

Bottom line: The number of people working across the state is a record, whether the “seasonally adjusted” number of 4,909,800 or the “not seasonally adjusted” number of 5,075,355. That’s according to Commerce.

(Numbers for the unemployed also were different: “seasonally adjusted” at 172,680 and “not seasonally adjusted” at 189,305.)

More people working in NC than ever before – unemployment drops to 3.3%

So which types of numbers are the most accurate?

Wrong question, says David Rhoades, communications director at Commerce:

“Regarding your question which number is more accurate with regard to seasonally adjusted or not seasonally adjusted – the two numbers are not really comparable, because they’re just different ways of measuring the data.

“We highlight the non-adjusted statewide number in our substate release (i.e. the county and area release) because all the other numbers published in the substate release are also non-adjusted.

“The reason we use not seasonally adjusted numbers is to align with the way the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics handles the substate information.”

To further illustrate the differences in numbers, the “not seasonally adjusted” record for unemployed is 105,734 reported in September 1988, Rhoades says.

And yes, the (not seasonally adjusted) statewide employment number for June 2023 is a record high.

As for the unemployed: The record low non-adjusted statewide jobless number is 105,734  from September 1988.

The record for “seasonally adjusted” unemployed is from February 1989: 118,367, according to the Department of Commerce.

So which number set is most important?

TechWire reached out to N.C. State economist Dr. Mike Walden for his insight about which data set is more important?

“Economists prefer seasonally-adjusted numbers because they allow month to month comparisons – in this case, for example, comparing June 2023 to May 2023,” Walden explains. “Technically speaking, non-seasonally-adjusted numbers for a given month should only be compared to the same month of the previous year.

“Seasonal adjustments account for the fact there are factors in each month that regularly change and therefore impact the economic factor being measured.

“The best example is holiday shopping at the end of each year.  There is always a big increase in spending and jobs in November and December compared to September and October.   Then in January there is a drop compared to November and December. Seasonal adjustments account for these regular changes, thereby avoiding the mistake (using the previous example) that the economy suddenly surges in Nov/Dec. and then plunges in January.

“So I would always put emphasis on the seasonally-adjusted numbers if the comparison is for month to month.”