RALEIGH, North Carolina — North Carolina saw the country's largest month-to-month fall in unemployment rates in November, dropping by half a percentage point to 5.8 percent, the government reported Friday.
The improvement over October's 6.3 percent jobless rate meant North Carolina finally pulled even with the national average in the critical economic measure last month. The national unemployment rate was 5.8 percent last month.
"For most of the past seven or eight years we've been well above the national rate except for a few months earlier this year, and so our recovery in North Carolina seems finally to be on track," said Mark Burkey, a North Carolina A&T State University economics professor.
The monthly survey of employers found that employment in every category except government increased over the past year. Most new jobs were added in professional and business services, making up more than a third of the 16,400 positions added in November.
A separate survey of households finds that nearly 4.4 million people were employed in November, an increase of more than 31,000 in the past year. Compared to the low point of the recession in November 2009, there were 278,000 more people employed last month, Burkey said.
The report also shows there were 13,534 fewer people either working or hunting for jobs in November. The North Carolina labor force has dropped by 31,665 people in the past year, suggesting the unemployment rate may be dropping in part because more people have quit looking for jobs after being unable to find one.
One concern in North Carolina's brightening economic picture is that double-digit unemployment persists in rural regions in the state's mountains, its northeast corner, and southeastern Robeson and Scotland counties, Burkey said.
"As the state on average recovers I hope that we can find some time to think about some of the places that are not necessarily being left behind but always have persistently high poverty rates and persistently high unemployment rates," said Burkey, adding that good schools are the main ways to improve employment and income.
Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio