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N.C. Economy Pushes Employment, Workforce To Record Levels

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina's economy produced 21,555 jobs in July, pushing the state's total employment to a record high of 4,215,526.

It's the second time since April that employment has topped 4.2 million.

Despite the surge in jobs, the state's unemployment rate inched upward to 4.8 percent from 4.6 percent in June. The 4.8 rate matches the national average.

The unemployment rate climbed because North Carolina's overall workforce number increased by 35,314. The workforce of 4,429,530 is also a record, surpassing the 4.4 million market set in May. The number of unemployed is just over 214,000.

"It's a good time to go out looking for a job in North Carolina," said Larry Parker of the North Carolina Employment Security Commission (ESC). "The job growth is not just here in Raligh or in Charlotte. It's in some of the rural areas as well."

The state's economy continues to rank among the best in the nation in terms of workforce growth, total employment (which includes self-employed and farm jobs) and payroll employment.

"The large increase in the labor force means that more jobs are opening up and more people are coming into the labor force looking for jobs," Parker explained. "The economy's good and people feel like they can quit a job they are unhappy with and go find another one."

Leading the surge in new jobs were the education/health and professional service sectors, which added 2,500 and 2,200 jobs respectively. Over the past year, those two parts of the economy have added 21,100 and 12,300 jobs.

Manufacturing lost 2,400 jobs in July.

Since July of 2005, North Carolina ranks fifth in producing new jobs with 119,734, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics and numbers compiled by the state ESC. Only Florida (314,477), Texas (224,069), California (154,525) and Illinois (135,746) have produced more.

In payroll employment, North Carolina stands sixth in jobs created (82,400). Florida is first (259,800), followed by Texas (230,300), California (192,000), Arizona (117,800) and Washington (86,500).

North Carolina's workforce has grown third-fastest over the past year, adding 99,494. Florida (287,490) and Texas (237,645) rank first and second. Georgia is fourth (96,947) and Arizona fifth (88,797).

The surge in jobs in July is part of a consistent trend for the state since the recession struck in 2001. North Carolina's employed workforce reached 3,965,000 in January of 2001, when the unemployment rate stood at 4.4 percent. By December of that year, jobs had been cut to 3,890,000. The employment total climbed past 4 million for the first time in April of 2004.

In additional to a revitalized state and national economy, North Carolina has been quite aggressive in recruiting new jobs. According to Governor Mike Easley's office, the state has landed 163,380 jobs and $26.2 billion in investment related to industrial recruitment since 2001.

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