While unemployment claims went up slightly across the state in May, the jobless rate dropped on the Outer Banks and remained steady throughout northeast North Carolina. That bucks a trend some experts say is an indicator the state’s economy is slowing or slipping.
According to the latest report from the N.C. Department of Commerce, the three Outer Banks county average was 4.1 percent in May. That’s a 0.3 percent improvement from April, and 1.1 percent better than May 2021.
Currituck had the region’s lowest jobless rate in May at 3.2 percent, with 468 people filing for unemployment out of an available workforce of 14,528. Currituck’s rate was up 0.2 percent from April and 1.2 percent better than May 2021.
The rate was 3.9 percent in Dare County (792 out of 20,472), down 0.5 percent from the previous month and 1.7 percent last year. Hyde County’s rate was 5.1 percent (96 out of 1,867), a 0.6 improvement from April as well as last May.
The average unemployment for the 12 northeastern N.C. counties in May was 4.1 percent (3,928 out of a workforce of 95,698), equal to the prior month and a 1.5 percent decrease from last year. Washington County had the highest rate in the area at 5.2 percent, followed by Hyde and Hertford counties at 5.1 percent.
Tyrrell County was at 4.9 percent, Perquimans 4.3, Pasquotank 4.2, Chowan 3.9, and Camden and Gates 3.4.
Statewide, the jobless rate was 4.6 percent, an increase of 0.2 percent from April but a 1.6 percent drop from 2021. Unemployment went up in 89 counties, with 15 counties at a 5 percent or higher rate.
The numbers are not seasonally-adjusted, but there is usually little change in April and May when those seasonal adjustments are made.
“The rising jobless rate in most North Carolina counties is consistent with other statewide factors associated with a reduced economic growth rate, such as falling building permits and rising initial jobless claims,” said Dr. Michael Walden, an economist and a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University, in an interview with WRAL TechWire on Wednesday.
Walden’s monthly report tracking five leading indicators in North Carolina’s economy showed an economic pullback had continued in May after the index fell in April, as well, WRAL reported.
“While many economists predict the economic slowdown will continue and possibly accelerate, the real determination will be how fast and how much the Federal Reserve raises interest rates,” said Walden. “The Fed is still in the early stages of their interest rate tightening; hence, I predict we will see further unemployment rate jumps in most counties in coming months.”