The Triad’s unemployment rate remained in a holding pattern during October, rising 0.1 percentage point to 3.6%, according to the N.C. Commerce Department.

That rate is near the 18-year low of 3.4% reached in September 2018.

The rate has been on a modest up-and-down cycle during 2019, reaching as high as 4.5% in July.

The October increase was driven primarily by limited private-sector job growth compared with September.

For example, the five-county Winston-Salem metropolitan statistical area had a net gain of 700 government jobs and 800 private-sector jobs — mostly in the retail, leisure and hospitality fields — compared with September.

Meanwhile, the three-county Greensboro-High Point metro had a net gain of 800 government and 2,100 private-sector jobs, also primarily lower-wage jobs.

In the Winston-Salem MSA, the jobless rate was at 3.4% in October, up from 3.3% in September and unchanged from October 2018, according to the employment report the Commerce Department released Monday.

The Greensboro-High Point MSA was at 3.8% in October, up from 3.7% in September and a year ago.

Both rates have remained below the 5% threshold since January 2017.

That’s the level most economists consider as representing full employment — the economic point at which everyone who wants a job has one, employers have the skilled workers they need, and there is limited inflationary pressure on wages.

For the Winston-Salem MSA, besides the net gain of 700 government jobs, there was a net gain of 400 jobs each in leisure and hospitality, and in professional and business services. There also was a loss of 200 manufacturing and 100 education and health service jobs.

Many economists say a year-over-year assessment of the job market is a more accurate representation than monthly comparisons.

Since October 2018, the Winston-Salem area has had a net gain of 7,400 jobs, highlighted by 2,200 in leisure and hospitality, 1,900 in education and health services, 1,900 in professional and business services, 500 in manufacturing, and 500 in construction.

The 7,500 year-over-year increase in employment was the fourth highest among the 14 regions measured by Commerce.

However, some economists and analysts were not overly encouraged with the jobless-rate picture.

They stress that North Carolina’s employment recovery has occurred mostly in five urban counties, particularly in Charlotte and the Triangle, which account for at least 45% of the net gain of jobs since February 2013.

Over the past year, the Greensboro-High Point MSA had a net gain of 2,900 jobs. By comparison, the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord MSA had a net gain of 27,900, the Raleigh-Cary MSA had a net gain of 20,700 jobs and the Durham-Chapel Hill MSA had a gain of 3,500.

“National and state declines in headline unemployment do not signal a healthy and complete recovery. The state’s growth is far too concentrated in urban North Carolina,” said William Munn, a policy analyst with the left-leaning N.C. Budget & Tax Center.

“We need to take a hard look at how it is we address the underlying drivers that stymie growth outside the urban corridors throughout this state,” Munn said.

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