North Carolina's Labor Market Continued to Heal During November
North Carolina's labor market picture brightened quite a bit again in November, with a surprisingly strong rise in payroll employment and continued decreases in the ranks of the state's unemployed workers. This marked improvement came at the same time that our Carolinas Survey of Business Activity pointed toward a slowdown in the region's economic expansion, a development that was accompanied by less optimistic hiring plans.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, payroll employment in North Carolina surged by 30,600 in November after increasing substantially in October. November marked the fourth straight increase in payroll employment in the state and was the largest month-to-month gain in more than two years. The recent streak of impressive job gains has left payroll employment in North Carolina at its highest level since January 2009.
As impressive as the top line gain was, it was also encouraging that job growth was evident across a broad swath of private sector industries as well as in the government sector. The private sector accounted for the vast majority of the net increase in employment during November, as firms added more than 28,000 new workers to their payrolls. On the goods producing side, factory employment jumped by 3,900 from the prior month. It was the first increase in manufacturing employment in four months, and was the largest for any month since the recovery began. Also on the goods-producing side, construction employment was up by 1,700 in November. It was the third healthy gain in construction jobs in as many months, another encouraging sign that the nascent building recovery has legs. When it comes to the building industry, however, we cannot lose sight of the fact that a lot of ground needs to be made up. Despite the recent gains, there were still 81,000 fewer construction jobs in North Carolina at the end of November than there were in January 2007.
On the services-providing side, the large trade, transportation, and utilities sector saw a gain of roughly 7,300 net jobs in November. Within that larger sector, retail trade employment surged by 7,900 jobs. This year's increase in North Carolina's retail employment during November was the largest of the last decade, by far. Professional and business services employment increased by 5,400 from October, while firms in private education and health services pitched in 4,900 net new jobs. Leisure and hospitality employment saw strong gains in both October and November, with about 4,600 new jobs created in each month. Government employment was up by 2,400 from the prior month, with all of the growth occurring at the local level.
North Carolina's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 9.1 percent in November, its third decline in a row and its lowest reading since January 2009. The broad-based improvement in labor market conditions comes at a time when respondents to our Carolinas Survey of Business Activity were becoming more cautious about their hiring plans. It appears that uncertainty may hamper hiring in the Carolinas in the coming months.