Just released employment figures for June 2017 by the N.C. Dept. of Commerce show a tightening labor market that have businesses searching at the bottom of the proverbial barrel for full and part-time help.

The state’s seasonally adjusted June unemployment rate was at 4.2 percent dropping 0.3 percentage points from May’s revised rate as the number of people unemployed decreased 14,892 over the month to 208,051, according to a press release from the office of NCDOC Secretary Anthony Copeland on July 21. In June 2016, the unemployment figure stood at 4.9 percent mirroring the national rate for the same period.

Government hiring lead all new hires clocking in 9,100 new workers followed by 4,300 new hires in the education and health services industries. Professional and business services grew by 3,100 with hospitality and leisure businesses adding 1,500.

Construction and financial services saw a drop in employment of 2,200 and 1,300, respectively with manufacturing declining by 700. Information, mining and logging employment remained unchanged.

The national unemployment rose slightly by 0.1 percent to settle at 4.4 percent for June.

Local companies and the managers who hire and fire don’t need an economist to know which way the employment numbers are heading.

At the Hampton Inn Kinston in Lenoir County, General Manager Travis Baker said keeping his 122-room property fully staffed can be difficult.

“It comes and goes,” Baker said. “You can be good for four months than employees quit or leave then we have to start the process all over again.”

According to May 2017 statistics compiled by the NCDOC Labor & Economic Analysis Division for the six eastern North Carolina counties to include Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Jones, Lenoir and Onslow show a tight labor pool with Jones County leading the pack with a 4.1 percent unemployment rate from a labor force of 4,591. Onslow County had the largest labor force along with the highest unemployment rate of 64,059 and 4.7 percent, respectively. Onslow County is home to Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station. Craven, Duplin and Lenoir counties had unemployment rates at 4.5 percent with Carteret registering 0.3 percentage point less at 4.2 percent.

Down East Heating & Air Conditioning provides service throughout eastern North Carolina with a staff of 47 employees. Such a large territory for the 31-year-old company comes with staffing challenges.

Manager Jason Humphrey is feeling the effects of a dwindling labor supply.

“We have between 10 to 20 positions available to meet the needs of our residential and commercial customers,” Humphrey said Friday afternoon. Humphrey has a robust outdoor advertising campaign throughout the region soliciting employee applicants. Humphrey finds it frustrating that “young people are being taught to work with computers and not their hands” and are entering the workforce with “poor work ethics and dependability and lack a driver’s license,” he said.

Dennis Reynolds works as a customer service representative for PeopleReady, a day-labor provider that matches able bodied adults and their skill sets with businesses seeking workers. Reynolds says prospective workers preregister with PeopleReady through an online form or at one of the 10 locations throughout the state. In eastern North Carolina, PeopleReady has a branch office in Jacksonville and Wilmington.

No one needed to tell Reynolds of the tightening labor market.

“It’s been quiet,” Reynolds said as he searched his data base of available laborers to fulfill a request from an Onslow County hospitality business in need of temporary help. “If someone calls us for help, we’re the ones that gets it done.”

Reporter Mike McHugh can be reached at 910-219-8455 or mike.mchugh@jdnews.com.