Another modest gain in hiring during December kept the state's jobless rate unchanged at a pandemic low of 6.2% for a third consecutive month, the N.C. Commerce Department reported Tuesday.
According to the monthly employer survey, the state had a net gain of 31,900 private-sector and 1,700 government jobs from November to December.
Tops was a net gain of 13,700 in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, along with 11,700 in professional and business services and 4,500 in manufacturing.
There was a loss of 2,800 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sectors.
The household survey found a 26,941 increase in the state's labor force from November to December, signaling 27,571 more employed North Carolinians and 630 fewer listed as unemployed.
Unemployed people who are actively looking for work are counted as part of the labor force.
The overall impact of the pandemic on the state's economy is shown in the year-over-year labor force totals.
The household survey finds a 4.4% decrease, or by 215,063, in those considered as employed compared with December 2019, as well as a 66.49% jump, or by 124,552, in those listed as unemployed.
The employer survey has the state down 162,800 private-sector jobs, or by 4.2%, and down 28,600 government jobs, or by 3.8%, both from December 2019.
The hardest-hit sector continues to be leisure and hospitality services with 106,7000 fewer jobs compared with a year ago, along with 32,000 in manufacturing and 30,200 in education and health services.
Of the 10 private-sector employment categories, only two have had a year-over-year net gain in jobs: professional and business services at 10,700 and financial activities at 900.
"Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, economists started talking about the potential for a 'K-shaped' recovery, with highly-paid workers bouncing back rapidly, while many of the worst-paid workers experience long periods of unemployment," the left-leaning N.C. Budget & Tax Center said in a statement Tuesday.
"Data through the end of 2020 now show those fears to have been well-founded. One-third of the jobs lost at the outset of COVID-19 have not been recovered, and low-income workers are far more likely to have experienced prolonged periods of unemployment."
Daily initial state and federal unemployment claims climbed again in North Carolina Monday at 9,945, the state Division of Employment Security reported Tuesday.
It's the highest daily claim total since 10,458 on Jan. 11.
By comparison, there were 5,972 claims Sunday and 4,172 Saturday.
There was an initial jump in N.C. claims following the Dec. 26 expiration of the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs.
The record daily high for the pandemic stands at 43,297 claims filed on Dec. 27. DES said in a Dec. 27 statement that "the increase in claims filed after Dec. 26 does not indicate ... new claimants entering the system."
Payments resumed Jan. 6 for at least 11 weeks for North Carolinians with eligibility remaining for the two programs.
As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, those programs had paid a combined $1.68 billion in benefits to North Carolinians.
Altogether, there have been 3.27 million state and federal UI claims during the pandemic, including 1.42 million initial claims. Some federal programs require filing additional state claims.
About 32.3% of the 4.4 million North Carolinians considered part of the state’s workforce as of mid-November have filed a state or federal unemployment claim.
The resumption of federal unemployment benefit payments also included the temporary restart of the primary funding program that Congress allowed to expire in July.
The $300 per week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) payments were made retroactive to Dec. 27.
They are currently set to expire March 13 unless extended by Congress and President Joe Biden. Biden included in his COVID-19 relief plan, unveiled Jan. 14, increasing the weekly benefit amount from $300 to $400.
When the FPUC weekly benefit was worth up to $600, unemployed and furloughed North Carolinians received just under $4.88 billion from late March through July 26.
Since the resumption, FPUC has paid about $146 million in benefits to North Carolinians.
North Carolina is at $9.6 billion for state and federal UI benefit payments to unemployed and furloughed individuals.
After $8.16 billion in state and federal UI benefits were paid from late March through Sept. 30, there had been just $1.44 billion since Oct. 1.
Beginning Jan. 3, North Carolinians have been able to draw up to 16 weeks of regular state UI benefits over a 12-month period. Before Jan. 3, 12 was the maximum number of regular state UI benefit weeks.
Regular state UI payments are at $1.82 billion, with only about $110 million being paid out since Oct. 1. Most unemployed and furloughed North Carolinians exhausted their 12 weeks of regular state UI benefits well before Oct. 1.
The state had $3.85 billion in the state UI Trust Fund in mid-March. State legislators said Sept. 2 that between $2.9 billion and $3 billion remained in the fund at that time. The third COVID-19 relief bill added $87 million.