RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – The unemployment rate in North Carolina – and the nation – continues to hold firm in the face of rising inflation and corresponding interest-rate increases, which sometimes can stall hiring.

The state’s unemployment rate for May remained at what it was for April, at 3.4%, the NC Department of Commerce reported. And the federal rate remains at 3.6%.

Before April, North Carolina hadn’t seen an unemployment rate as low as 3.4% since March 2000. The state has data available dating back to 1976, and the lowest unemployment rate recorded is 3.1% in February and March of 1999. The highest was 14.2% in April 2020.

The state’s rate is 1.6% better than it was a year ago, and 33,419 more people had taken jobs since April. Individuals filing for unemployment were up by only 2,361.

This follows the rebound across the nation from the unemployment spike caused by the coronavirus pandemic. WalletHub, the financial lending site that tracks data and what it informs about trends, cited the 390,000 jobs added in May, which were fewer than April, and updated its report “States Whose Unemployment Rates Are Bouncing Back Most.

Source: WalletHub

That analysis shows that North Carolina ranks No. 24 in its rebound, based on comparisons about how much unemployment has declined since May 2019, January 2020 and May 2021. The averages create an index that WalletHub uses in its rankings.

North Carolina’s rate has improved by 8.8 percentage points since 2019 and 9.2 since January 2020.

The biggest improvements (top five) are in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Indiana and Kansas. Alabama has the biggest improvement among Southern states, ranking No. 11. Virginia is No. 19, and South Carolina is No. 32.

The bottom five (Nos. 51-46) were the District of Columbia, New Mexico, Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada and Illinois.

Steve Werner, University of Houston (WALLETHUB)

Steve Werner, the chair of the Department of Management and Leadership and the College of Business at the University of Houston, said he thinks companies will continue to fight for workers.

“I believe that the job market as a whole in 2022 will be employee-driven, with companies finding themselves scrambling to find good candidates,” Werner told WalletHub. “Providing benefits strategically, keeping up with rising compensation demands, and addressing the new reality that many employees want to work remotely will help employers stay competitive in attracting and retaining employees.”

He said he thinks cyber security is driving the job market now because companies worry “about geopolitical conflicts that will foster increases in cyber threats.”

And, somewhat related, the NC Department of Commerce reports that in May one of the job categories showing the most significant job growth since April was “financial activities,” which added 2,200 jobs in May. That was behind only manufacturing (3,700) and ahead of the usual leader, leisure and hospitality services (1,700).

North Carolina’s trends (NC DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE)

Business services and financial activities rank Nos. 2 and 4 in increases since May 2021. Leisure and hospitality ranks No. 1 during that period, adding 43,500 jobs.

County-specific unemployment data for North Carolina will be released on June 29.