Editor’s note: North Carolina’s seasonally adjusted September 2023 unemployment rate was 3.4 percent, an increase of 0.1 of a percentage point from August’s revised rate, reports the N.C. Department of Commerce. What’s that mean? WRAL TechWire reached out to N.C. State economist Dr. Mike Walden for his analysis.

North Carolina missed out for the most part on a national surge in jobs last month – a report Walden called a shocker. The September national job report was a shocker. Most analysts had been expecting a net increase in jobs for September to be in the 150,000 to 200,000 range. Instead, the net increase in payroll jobs was an astonishing 336,000. Now, his look at North Carolina data.


RALEIGH – Overall, the September labor market report for North Carolina was positive, but there are some warning signals.

On the plus side, over 10,000 non-farm jobs were added, the labor force grew by 18,000, the labor force participation rate edged up to 60.9%, and several sectors experienced robust job growth, particularly trade/transportation/utilities, education/health, and professional services.

But there were three negative signs.

Mike Walden (NCSU photo)

The 10,000 job gain was 60% lower than the gains in August.  In manufacturing, 900 jobs were lost, and leisure/hospitality employment was down by 1600.

Changes in the manufacturing sector tend to lead changes in the overall economy, and the loss in leisure/hospitality jobs is a major shift from the sector’s big gains in recent months.

Last, although the unemployment rate remained relatively low at 3.4%, it was up from August’s 3.3%, and the total number of unemployed workers rose by 3100.

September inflation numbers: ‘Good, bad, and uncertain,’ says NC State eonomist

Recession, more layoffs ahead?

The immediate worry is whether these results signal a recession ahead with significant layoffs.  With the data and trends we currently have, my forecast is for a slowdown in the economy instead of a deterioration in the economy.
I expect a continuation in overall gains, but just at a slower pace.  Even with a slowdown and not a recession, manufacturing jobs will be more vulnerable, as also will be construction jobs.  Tech jobs are in a transition phase as the tech sector moderates its employment goals after its very rapid job expansion during the pandemic.
My watchword is “caution” but not “concern.”
There may be some bumpy months ahead, but I see no massive crash.
However, I do have a caveat.  The new factor to consider is the Mideast conflict.  If the fighting were to expand to directly include all involved countries, specifically Iran as well as the U.S., then oil prices could significantly jump, consequently sending gas prices to possibly $4/gallon or higher and sparking a worldwide recession.

September jobs report a ‘shocker,’ says NC State economist