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U.S. jobless rate shows improvement, but worries remain

The nation’s employers added 120,000 jobs in November, helping drop the national unemployment rate to 8.6%.

While that is the lowest the jobless rate has been since March of 2009, economists note that more than 300,000 people dropped out of the labor force.

Private employers accounted for a gain of 140,000 jobs in November, even as local and state governments shed 20,000 positions.

On Thursday, the N.C. Division of Employment Security released county-level unemployment rates for the month of October. Analyst John Quinterno of South by North Strategies notes that joblessness is more widespread than captured in the official unemployment measure:

“North Carolina’s local labor markets recorded few meaningful improvements over the past year,” said Quinterno. “Statewide job growth has been anemic at best, and as a result, unemployment rates actually have risen across much of the state.”

Compared to October 2010, unemployment rates were higher in 78 of N.C.’s counties and 12 metros area.  Moreover, 36 counties and 5 metros had smaller labor forces.

The sobering figures come as Congress debates whether to extend a payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance benefits. It’s estimated that nearly 70,000 North Carolinians would be adversely affected if the federally funded extended unemployment benefits are allowed to expire at the end of this year.

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