NC unemployment rate remains relatively flat for 3rd month at 5.4 percent for January

Economic Indicators Associated Press

North Carolina's jobless rate was 5.4 percent for January, the third month in a row the figure has been relatively flat, according to numbers released Tuesday.

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The North Carolina Department of Commerce said in a news release that the rate for January is the same as the revised figure for December, and it's slightly lower than November's 5.5 percent. The state figure is also lower than the national rate that inched up to 5.7 percent for January.

"Broadly speaking, I would say that it's suggesting there's a kind of stabilization in the North Carolina labor market," said Queens University of Charlotte economics professor Harry Bowen, who reviewed the January numbers.

North Carolina's jobless rate has gradually dropped over the past year from 6.6 percent in January of 2014.

The state said the total number of people employed rose 22,658 from the previous month to nearly 4.4 million. That represented an increase of nearly 66,000 from a year ago.

"Positive signs are that the labor force in principle has grown, while the number employed has also grown. Those two things are good. So we see the general pie getting bigger," Bowen said.

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The state said the sector with the largest seasonally adjusted increase in employment was Leisure and Hospitality Services, which rose by 5,200 over the month to nearly 457,000 jobs. The biggest drop was in Trade, Transportation and Utilities, which fell by 11,700 to nearly 779,000 jobs over the month.