Although more Americans rejoined the workforce in July, North Carolina’s unemployment rate shot up by 1 percent, a loss of nearly 63,000 jobs, the NC Department of Commerce reported Friday.

The state’s unemployment rate hovered below 4 percent last year, but the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the shuttering of the bar and restaurant industry led to widespread layoffs in March. Through April and May, nearly 13 percent of the state’s workforce reported being out of work. As the state began its reopening plan in June, that figure decreased to 7.5 percent. 

But July saw a troubling reversal of that trend, a new report from the NC Department of Commerce finds, with the unemployment rate climbing back up to 8.5 percent. Last month, about 420,000 North Carolinians reported being unemployed, an increase of 62,712 from June. 

Nationally unemployment went down 1 percent, to 10.2 percent of the workforce. 

The silver lining: the number of people employed actually went up by about 72,000 in July. Unfortunately, so did the number of people looking for jobs. 

Since March, the state has paid out more than $7 billion in unemployment benefits to more than 863,400 people, the Department of Commerce reports. The state is also waiting on an application for federal funds that could boost the unemployment benefits by $300 or more. 

Follow Raleigh News Editor Leigh Tauss on Twitter or send an email to

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.