The state jobless rate dipped slightly to 9.6 percent in October, a sign that the vaunted turnaround has not yet arrived.
The state jobless figure, released this morning by the N.C. Employment Security Commission, is a slight reduction from September's 9.7 unemployment rate.
However, state data shows more that than 12,000 people dropped out of the workforce in October.
"That's not good," said N.C. State University economist Mike Walden. "The worry I have about this is the number of people dropping out of the workforce who are not counted as unemployed."
If the dropouts were counted among the unemployed the state jobless rate would be 10.6 percent, Walden said. But he noted that some of the 12,152 who have dropped out are in college getting retrained and will likely reenter the economy.
In the past year, nearly 53,000 people have dropped out of the state's economy, according to household surveys. About 427,000 people in this state were counted as unemployed in October, not counting those who have dropped out of the labor force.
Two million people nationwide -- including nearly 14,000 in this state -- will exhaust their unemployemnt benefits next month unless Congress extends the payments. On Thursday a measure to grant a three-month extension failed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
If the measure is not passed, nearly 59,000 people in North Carolina will exhaust their weekly jobless benefits in the next four months. The benefits are typically two-thirds of former pay, up to $505 a week, for as long as 99 weeks.
Last month the ESC said that September's jobless rate here was 9.6 percent, the same as the national average. However, that rate has since been revised to 9.7 percent. So October marks the first time in 29 months that the state's jobless rate is not higher than the national average.
There were some positive indications in the economic data. According to a different set of numbers -- the workforce survey -- the state's total employment figure remained flat at 3.9 million people. That's significant because the government dropped 2,100 jobs in the state last month, which means that the private sector grew by 2,100 jobs,
"Ultimately the way our economy will recover is through job gains in the private sector," Walden said.
The workforce survey also shows that total hours worked in manufacturing keeps creeping up, an indication of increasing output. Weekly hours were 41.4 in October, up from 40.5 in September, and up from 39.1 in October 2009.