by Paige Terryberry
Senior Analyst for Fiscal Policy, John Locke Foundation
North Carolina’s employment situation improved again in April as the unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, remaining below the national average of 3.6%, according to the latest release from the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The unemployment rate has been trending below the state’s pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.6% (from January 2020) for two consecutive months now.
Our average state unemployment has improved, but some rural North Carolina counties sustain high unemployment rates. Hyde and Scotland Counties have the highest rates, 8.7%, and 8.0%, respectively. The metro area of Wake County has 2.9% unemployment.
The state’s labor force, including employed individuals and unemployed individuals searching for work, grew to 5,056,855 persons in April, notably close to the January 2020 pre-pandemic level of 5,110,632.
The industries experiencing the highest employment increases in April were Professional and Business Services and Leisure and Hospitality, adding 5,500 and 4,200 workers, respectively.
Given the adverse effects of the government’s Covid-related shutdowns on entertainment businesses and restaurants, the Leisure and Hospitality sector has experienced the greatest employment increase over the year. In fact, Leisure and Hospitality employment in North Carolina has grown a whopping 11.8% since April 2021, surpassing other sectors in terms of growth.
Average private weekly wages increased 0.2% over the month, from $1,019.82 to $1,021.89. Over the past year, wages are up 6.8%. Unfortunately, inflation eats up these wage gains and more.
The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows inflation continues to reach historic levels. At an annualized 8.3% rate, North Carolinians have been hit with a pay cut. We are paying more for everyday items like food and gasoline. Grocery prices rose at a 10.8% annualized rate, harming low- and middle-class households most.
Thanks to fiscally conservative leadership and spending restraint that has allowed a fiscal cushion, North Carolina continues to recover from the Covid pandemic and related government shutdowns, usually outpacing the national average for employment levels.
Unfortunately, skyrocketing prices from money printing and historic deficit spending distract from this progress. Workers’ wage gains and precious savings are eaten away. Low and middle-class households, in particular, are devastated by runaway inflation.
Inflation is a tax on all Americans. The Biden Administration’s failure to address the root cause continues to wreak havoc on workers’ wallets. Moreover, the Biden Administration’s proposed solutions are laughable: punishing railroads or raising taxes on corporations.
North Carolina’s fiscal responsibility should not be undermined by Washington’s recklessness. North Carolinians, and all Americans, deserve better.