- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina’s jobless rate dropped for the fourth straight month, falling to 5.5 percent in December when the state was one of the top four in the number of people joining the workforce.

The revised rate for November was 5.9 percent, up slightly from the 5.8 percent originally reported. The rate, which was 6.9 percent in December 2013, has been falling since September.

The number of people employed increased almost 1,283 from November to December to more than 4.3 million. The number of people unemployed decreased almost 15,843 over the month to more than 255,510.

Since December 2013, total nonfarm jobs gained 114,500, with the total private sector growing by 119,900 and government decreasing by 5,400. North Carolina trailed only Texas (457,900), California (320,300) and Florida (230,600) in the number of nonfarm jobs added in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“What that tells you is we’re fully recovered from the recession,” said James F. Smith, an economic forecaster and chief economist for Parsec Financial in Asheville. “We’re below the national average in unemployment and doing very well in total employment.”

As for the loss of government jobs, “that’s probably fabulous news,” Smith said. “Fewer bureaucrats are better than more. But it could be bad news. If it’s all school teachers, it’s bad news because enrollment has gone up. We don’t know who it is. We don’t even know if it’s local, state or federal (jobs).”

The December rate in North Carolina also was slightly lower than the national rate of 5.6 percent. That’s the first time the rate has been lower than the national one since last April.

“The latest report released today continues to show that North Carolina is headed in the right direction when it comes to creating jobs and rebuilding the economy,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a news release.

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Martha Waggoner can be reached at https://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc

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