GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Although statewide unemployment rates were flat in May, most counties in North Carolina saw them increase since April – including all 14 in the Piedmont Triad.

The NC Department of Commerce reported Thursday that 89 of 100 counties saw an increase in unemployment, with six showing continued decreases, which is the opposite of the report from April.

Almost all Triad counties showed a swing of .2 of a point from their reports in April, but Surry County had a push of .4. All of them were higher than they had been in March, too, but significantly below their rates from May 2021.

North Carolina’s county-by-county unemployment in May. (NC DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE)

Stokes County had the lowest rate in the region (3.2%), followed by Yadkin and Davie counties (at 3.3%). Guilford County had the highest (4.2%), followed by Rockingham (4.1%).

Statewide Chatham County – where another big employment investment in a microchip plant was unveiled on Thursday in the state budget – had the highest rate, at 7.3%, and neighboring Orange County had the lowest (2.9%).

The overall statewide rate remains at 3.6%, which matches the national average and remains significantly lower than a year ago.

All 15 metro areas the Department of Commerce tracks, though, showed increases from April, With Rocky Mount at the top (5.9%), and Asheville having the least (3%).

Greensboro-High Point (3.2%) and Winston-Salem (2%) are about in the middle on job growth since May 2021, and Burlington (1.1%) is at the lower end. Raleigh had the highest rate (4.3%), and Rocky Mount had the lowest (0.7%).

Metro area job trends in North Carolina. (NC DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE)

Statewide report

The Department of Commerce reports that the number of workers employed statewide increased in May by 23,486, to 4,949,923, and those unemployed increased by 12,208, to 187,438.

Since May 2021, the number of workers employed statewide increased by 270,139, and those unemployed decreased by 67,479.

National perspective

WalletHub, the financial services site that tracks data to help explain trends, found that North Carolina ranks 12th nationally for having difficulty finding workers. That’s based on a month-to-month comparison of job opening rates.

North Carolina’s current rate is 8.1%, and for the past 12 months it’s 7.33%. Alaska has the most difficulty (8.4%/9.27%), and New York has the least (5.7%/5.89%).

WalletHub says that “the labor force participation rate has experienced the slowest recovery of any recession since World War II. Some businesses aren’t even able to keep the employees they already have – as Americans are quitting their jobs at record rates in what’s been dubbed the ‘Great Resignation.’”

After Alaska, the states having the greatest difficulty are Kentucky, Georgia, Montana, Iowa, West Virginia, South Carolina, Illinois, Minnesota and Vermont.

Just behind New York among the best are Washington, D.C., Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington and Utah.

Source: WalletHub

The root causes

Miren Ivankovic, an economics professor at Clemson University, said there were several reasons for the hiring gaps for employers, one of which he calls “structural unemployment.”

“There is a mismatch in the supply of labor and demand for labor based on set of skills,” he told WalletHub. “For example, South Carolina needs automakers and plane makers, but if the available pool of labor does not have these skills, there is a shortage of labor.”

He also cited the effects of COVID-19 and adults working at home because of remote learning and stimulus checks that increased savings and allowed workers to remain unemployed.

“Finally, some individuals realized that the labor market is ‘hot,’ and they can get a better deal somewhere else,” he said. “This is called frictional unemployment since they resign and then shop for a better job.”

Triad unemployment data

                             May          Apr            Mar           ‘21   

Alamance         3.7              3.4              3.5              4.9

Alleghany           3.8              3.4              3.3              4.7

Caswell              3.9              3.6              3.8              5.5

Davidson           3.4              3.2              3.3              4.8

Davie                  3.3              3.1              3.1              5.3

Forsyth              3.7              3.5              3.6              5.1

Guilford             4.2              4.0              4.2              5.8

Montgomery   3.6              3.3              3.4              4.7

Randolph           3.5              3.2              3.3              4.9

Rockingham     4.1              3.9              4.0              5.8

Stokes                3.2              2.9              3.0              4.4

Surry                   3.4              3.0              3.1              4.5

Wilkes                3.8             3.5              3.5              4.8

Yadkin               3.3             3.1              3.1              4.6