RALEIGH – The unemployment rates in 91 North Carolina counties decreased in December 2021, according to the latest figures from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
Across the state, the Department of Commerce found the state’s unemployment rate to be 3.7% in December 2021.
“The decline in the unemployment rate in 91 of the 100 counties is certainly in line with statewide trends,” said Dr. Michael Walden, a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University, in an interview with WRAL TechWire.
Orange County’s unemployment rate was the lowest of any county in the state, at 2.2%, in December 2021, according to the data set. A year ago, in December 2020, the unemployment rate in Orange County was 4.7%.
Across the metropolitan statistical areas, the Durham-Chapel Hill area was found to have the lowest unemployment rate in the data set, with an unemployment rate of 2.5%, down from 5.3% in December 2020. Durham County’s unemployment rate was 2.6% in December 2021 compared to 5.6% in December 2020.
In the Raleigh metropolitan statistical area, the unemployment rate was 2.6% in December 2021, compared to 5.3% in December 2020. Wake County’s unemployment rate was 2.5% compared to 5.7% in December 2020 and Johnston County’s unemployment rate was 2.7% compared to December 2020, when the county’s unemployment rate was 5.4%.
Regional labor markets
“Jobless rates are usually lower in metro counties than in rural counties,” said Walden. “An interesting question is whether more firms will consider locations in rural (non-metro) counties that have more available workers?”
Earlier today, Amazon announced it would construct a second facility in Cumberland County with the goal of adding more than 500 full-time employees and hundreds of part-time ones.
The unemployment rate in Cumberland County in December 2021 was found to be 4.8%, down from 8.4% in December 2020. In the Fayetteville metropolitan statistical area, which includes Cumberland County, the unemployment rate was also 4.8% in December 2021.
“Even if firms do this, can they find workers with the skills and training they need in rural counties,” asked Walden. “If not, this is where training programs affiliated with community colleges can be exceedingly important.”
One consideration of the current state of North Carolina’s labor market might be which rural counties, with what Walden called “slack” in the local labor force, “can obtain more benefits from the strong economic growth in the state,” said Walden.
Randolph County, where Toyota’s new $1.29 billion manufacturing plant will be located, had an unemployment rate of 3.0% in December 2021, down from 6.1% in December 2020. In Guilford County, where Boom Supersonic will locate its first supersonic aircraft manufacturing facility, the unemployment rate was found to be 3.8% in December 2021, compared to 7.1% in December 2020.