Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — North Carolina’s economy fully returned to the employment level it enjoyed before the COVID-19 pandemic sent the world into an economic recession, state economists said Monday. The state’s economy recovered to pre-pandemic employment levels in July of 2021 and the GDP even earlier, and the state’s economy continues to grow despite concerns of inflation and high gas prices.
The state’s economy is expanding, with job growth being high relative to other states. Over the year, the labor force participation rate increased 0.5 percentage points, nonfarm jobs increased by 166,500, a 3.7 percent increase, and the unemployment rate fell by 1.6 percentage points.
“Our significant success increasing jobs during the pandemic shows North Carolinians are resilient and we need to focus on training workers and educating children to continue to grow our workforce,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “But right now, prices for gas and food are too high, and we have to find ways to make those costs more affordable while we keep bringing good paying jobs to our state.”
The data shows economic recovery but also places that need work. North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell by 0.2 percent from December to January, ranking 6th in over-the month change. The state unemployment rate is in the middle nationally at 25th as is its over-the-year change from January 2021. The labor force participation rate improved but the state is ranked 38th nationally. However, the state ranks 9th nationally in the number of total nonfarm jobs.
The labor market, or number of people seeking jobs, continues to be tight in North Carolina. For example, December figures show the state had only 0.8 job seekers per job opening, according to the NC Department of Commerce.
Annual state-level data revisions are published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in March. Revised data for 2021 show that the state economy is expanding after recovering to pre-pandemic total nonfarm employment last summer. The state’s unemployment rate reached a high of 14.2 percent at the start of the pandemic in April 2020.