The latest N.C. jobs report shows that the state’s unemployment rate finally reached the national unemployment rate of 9.6 percent. This is the first time in more than two years that the state’s jobless rate hasn’t been higher than the national rate. But N.C. State University extension economist Mike Walden says it isn’t necessarily time to celebrate:
“I like to celebrate. I like to bring good news. But unfortunately that unemployment rate is a little deceptive. If you look at the survey from which that 9.6 unemployment rate was drawn, it actually showed 6,600 fewer jobs in North Carolina over that past month.
“So the question is, Well, how, could the unemployment rate go down and reach the national average when we have fewer jobs in North Carolina? And this is that old story of who do you count as unemployed. And in this case, what we saw was 13,000 people who had been unemployed in the previous month were not counted because they stopped actively looking for work.
“And we cannot emphasize this enough: To be counted as unemployed — and this is a national requirement that goes back decades — you have to not only be out of work and want to work, but you have to be sending out resumes, going on job interviews, et cetera. If you stop doing that, you are not counted as unemployed. And that is exactly what happened in the previous month.
“So it was not necessarily a good employment report. Now, we do have a second employment report that actually showed jobs going up, but 90 percent of those were related to adding people to the public school system. Most private sector areas actually lost jobs. So we still certainly have an unemployment problem in North Carolina.”