North Carolina’s unemployment rate decreased to 3.9% in January, a 0.2 percentage point change from the revised December rate according to today’s release from the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The state still trends below the national average rate of 4.0% unemployment. 

Professional and Business Services had the largest increase in jobs over the month. Leisure and Hospitality lost 500 jobs over the month. But since January of 2021, Leisure and Hospitality Services have seen the largest job gains, followed by Professional and Business Services and Government. 

The state continues to add jobs, but North Carolina labor force is still roughly 100,000 persons smaller than the January 2020, pre-pandemic labor force.

Though North Carolina remains above the national average in terms of unemployment, inflation makes working life arduous. 

Average earnings rose again this month in the state. And over the year, average weekly earnings increased by 8%. However, the latest consumer price index data show inflation consumed these gains, rising at 7.9%. (Note: National inflation data is available through February 2022 while the state job data is only available through January 2022.) 

Worse, inflation is accelerating, foreshadowing grim future for any wage gains that are not likely to keep up. Real incomes are falling. 

Prices for necessary household goods are rising, harming the poor most. Overall, prices are up 0.8% in February, the fastest rate in four months. Low-income families’ budgets are stretched most by this acceleration. The food index increased 1.0% in February, and 8.4% from one year ago. The gasoline index increased a whopping 6.6% in February, and 38% over the last year. In January, the gasoline index briefly dropped 0.8%. 

Inflation is a tax on all Americans. However, it disproportionately targets the poor. Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities. 

The Biden Administration cannot promise a “fighting chance” to working families while also calling inflation “transitory,” the result of price gouging, and “Putin’s price hike.”