North Carolina’s jobless rate dipped in December to 5.6 percent, but ended up higher than it was a year ago as the state was unable to create enough jobs to meet demand from job seekers.
However, by other economic measures the state delivered positive results last month, with more people employed and more people looking for work.
The state’s jobless rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point last month from 5.7 percent in November. The rate was 5.4 percent in December 2014.
It was the increase of the state’s labor force – the number of people working and also seeking jobs – that kept North Carolina’s jobless rate from falling last year, economists say.
“As long as we’re seeing strong job growth, it’s not so worrisome if the unemployment rate goes up for a month or two,” said Wells Fargo Securities economist Mark Vitner. “Everything is moving in the right direction right now.”
The year-end report was issued by the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division.
N.C. State University economist Michael Walden noted that the number of people employed and the number of payroll jobs in North Carolina rose faster than the average increase nationwide.
Just as significantly, the state’s labor force grew 3.6 percent over the past year, compared to 1.1 percent for the nation, Walden said.
North Carolina added 86,800 nonfarm jobs in the past 12 months, including 6,900 in December.
Economists generally consider 100,000 nonfarm jobs in a year as the demarcation for strong growth in North Carolina.
The annual economic figures are revised and reissued in March, and Vitner said they are likely to show the state gaining more than 100,000 jobs in 2015. The reason for the increase is the inclusion of newly created businesses, which don’t show up in surveys of existing workplaces.
Last year the state added more than 110,000 jobs.
No job categories experienced declines in North Carolina last year. The weakest performing sector – mining and logging – added no new jobs while the strongest sector – professional and business services – gained 19,200.
The national jobless rate was 5 percent in December, down from 5.6 percent a year ago. Economists say the discrepancy between North Carolina’s rate and the national rate can be explained in part by the state’s population growth. The state is attracting new residents at a faster rate than its economy is growing.
“The national unemployment rate is down from a year ago, while North Carolina’s rate is higher,” said East Carolina University economist James Kleckley. “If you take the change at face value, North Carolina is not creating enough jobs for the people who want them.”
The Triangle's jobless rate was 5.2 percent in November. The December rate will be released Feb. 3.