RALEIGH – New unemployment data based on not-seasonably-adjusted numbers has an underlying warning indicating tougher times ahead for jobs in North Carolina. Then there is bad news from unemployment data nationally.

Slightly more Americans filed for jobless benefits last week, but the overall number of people in the U.S. collecting unemployment benefits rose to its highest level in two years.

Applications for unemployment benefits rose by 7,000 to 218,000 for the week ending Nov. 25, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

However, 1.93 million people were collecting unemployment benefits the week that ended Nov. 18, about 86,000 more than the previous week and the most in two years. Continuing claims have risen in nine of the past 10 weeks.

“The practical message for workers is to keep your job if you have one, and if you are looking for a job, take the first reasonable offer,” N.C. State economist Dr. Michael Walden tells WRAL. “The economic ride may become bumpy in early 2024.”

Bloomberg news chimed in with a warning about the jobs market slowing.

“The persistent climb in continuing claims points to a risk that the unemployment rate will reach 4.0% in November… While some of the surge was likely due to issues in seasonally adjusting the data, anecdotes suggest labor demand is easing,” Bloomberg quoted economist Eliza Winger as saying. The October jobless rate was 3.9%.

Yes, the N.C. unemployment rate remains low (3.3%) and the number of people working i n the state remains near record highs.

Yes, inflation seems to be cooling and there may be no more interest rate hikes in the immediate future.

But …

North Carolina’s Department of Commerce released employment data for October that shows unemployment rates are creeping higher. And Walden is worried.

New inflation data means interest rate hikes less likely, NC economist says

“While comparing month-to-month seasonally unadjusted numbers can be flawed, the fact that jobless rates increased in 84 counties is still significant,” Walden says.

“The trend had been for widespread declines in jobless rates.  When combined with other data, the latest county numbers are consistent with a slowing labor market throughout the North Carolina.”

Example: the NCSU Index of North Carolina Leading Economic Indicators for November (based on October data) compiled by Walden reported a 9.6% increase in jobless claims.

Another: Job openings in the Triangle are dwindling, according to WRAL TechWire’s latest jobs report.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that employers are also posting fewer job openings.

The hope is this is a precursor to a widespread economic slowdown that will lower the inflation rate without causing a recession,” Walden says.

According to the Commerce report. the number of people working across the state fell by more than 21,000 to 5,114,298. Meanwhile the number of unemployed climbed by nearly 6,800 to 176,984.

Over the last year, however, more than 122,000 people are working; the unemployed ranks have fallen by 14,368.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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