Recall we’ve been tip-toeing into this territory for some months now, asking the impolite question, do Charlotte’s laid off bankers have any actual skill sets?

Now comes a sobering account confirming that — at least in some cases — skilled workers are hard to find locally.

We are just going to have to watch the total jobs number very closely month-to-month to see if this changes. We know that the region lost 35,900 jobs in 2009. But when you drill down a little tighter to just Mecklenburg, Union, Gaston, and Cabarrus you can see how far we have to go to recover.

In December 2008 the total labor force stood at 720,498 with total employment of 657,723. That made for an unemployment rate of 8.72 percent. By December 2009 the labor force had grown to 730,224 while the total number of jobs fell to 645,556, making for an unemployment rate of 11.6 percent. (All this data comes straight from the NC Employment Security Commission.)

This means that to even get back to the relatively high unemployment rate of December 2008, we need 666,548 jobs in those four counties — assuming the labor force does not grow yet more. And adding 21,000 jobs in the next year would be a monumental reversal of recent monthly trends, which have seen job losses by the thousands followed by a gain of 100 or so.

It is probably far too simple a metric, but until the total employment number climbs above 650K for those counties I do not think anyone can begin to talk about economic recovery for Charlotte.