NC unemployment rate falls to nearly half of lockdown’s peak

FILE – In this May 21, 2020 file photo, a man looks at signs of a closed store due to COVID-19. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped markedly in August, according to state figures, falling to nearly half the record rate during the spring at the height of business and movement restrictions issued during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 6.5% jobless rate is 2 percentage points lower than the seasonally adjusted rate in July, according to the state Department of Commerce. The July rate had increased compared to June. The national rate for August was 8.4%.

The state rate for April was 12.9%, which marks the highest seasonally adjusted rate for North Carolina since 1976, when the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping records in the manner it currently does.

The jobless figures for August, revealed on Friday, mask partly the reduction in the overall number of people in the workforce by almost 72,000 compared to July, falling to 4.83 million people. That could signal that some residents have stopped looking for work. Meanwhile, the overall number of people employed grew by 28,000 compared to July, or to 4.51 million people. Still, almost 388,000 fewer people were working in August compared to August 2019.

About 891,600 North Carolina workers have been approved for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began, the Division of Employment Security said in a release. Nearly $8 billion in federal and state benefits have been disbursed to the qualifying workers.