RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina’s unemployment did not change from October to November, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Friday.
The unemployment rate remained at 6.2 percent, which is lower than the national rate in November of 6.7 percent.
“I think the recovery is going to stall a little bit,” said N.C. State University economist Mike Walden. “Even if you don’t have a shutdown order, people hear about cases going up and they change their behavior.”
The number of people employed increased over the previous month by 28,320, according to the state Department of Commerce.
The unemployment data comes as Congress debates a new COVID relief package, which could include federal unemployment benefits and stimulus checks. Lawmakers have been debating the measure for months.
Chris Keener, who lives in Charlotte, has been unemployed for much of the pandemic. He works behind the scenes at live events, which have largely been canceled.
“It certainly puts you in a bit of a panic at times, and it stresses you out. It gives you anxiety,” he said.
He’s had work some weeks at Panthers games, which has allowed him to stretch out the time he’s eligible for unemployment benefits.
He worries about what will happen later this month, when key federal programs authorized under the CARES Act end the day after Christmas.
“It’s a scary time for sure. I’m really hoping that Congress comes through and can help us out,” he said.
COVID-19 cases continue to rise in North Carolina. The state set a one-day record Friday when 8,444 new cases were reported. It was the first time the state logged more than 8,000 cases in a day.
Keener questions how long it will be before he can return to working as much as he did before the pandemic.
“Next year, it’s kind of scary, not knowing what’s going to happen,” he said.
Walden released a series of economic predictions for next year, expecting the aggregate economy will improve. He also anticipates unemployment will continue to drop but not reach pre-pandemic levels. He expects income inequality to widen as some lower-wage earners struggle to find work. In addition, he projects interest rates will increase slightly and for federal taxes to go up for corporations and higher-income individuals.
“I think we’re going to pause in the recovery at the end of the year, maybe end of January. But, I think once the vaccine gets going, people’s confidence will go up and we’ll get the recovery back on track,” Walden said.
He said he expects the economy will improve next year even if Congress does not reach a deal on a relief package, but he said he thinks some kind of relief is necessary.
“We’ve got people out there who are not being able to find work. We’ve got some shutdown orders in the nation. Businesses are now having a second wave of having trouble,” he said.
He said job training programs will be vital, as the pandemic accelerates some shifts that were already occurring. More jobs could be replaced by technology and machinery, he said.