South By North Strategies, Ltd.

South by North Strategies, Ltd. is a research consultancy specializing in economic and social policy. Learn about who we arewhat we do, our work, and our publications.

QuinternoRunningNumbersCMYKThe firm’s founder is John Quinterno, who is the author of the book “Running the Numbers: A Practical Guide to Regional Economic and Social Analysis” (New York: Routledge, 2014). Learn about and order the book.

Unemployment Down Across NC Over the Year

CHAPEL HILL, NC (July 1, 2015) Between May 2014 and May 2015, unemployment rates fell in 87 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in 14 of the state’s 15 metropolitan areas. Over the same period, the size of the local labor force shrank in 52 counties and in 4 metro areas.

These findings come from new estimates released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“As typically happens at the start of the summer, seasonally unadjusted local unemployment rates generally rose between April and May,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Compared to May 2014, employment conditions improved across a broad swath of North Carolina, particularly in the state’s largest metropolitan regions.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 1.8 percent more payroll jobs (+75,200). In May 2015, the state gained 10,400 more jobs than it lost (+0.2 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 6,400 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 402,000 payroll jobs (+10.5 percent).

Between April and May of 2015, local unemployment rates rose in 97 of the state’s 100 counties, decreased in 2 counties, and held constant in 1 county. Individual county rates in May ranged from 4.5 percent in Buncombe County to 12 percent in Graham County. Overall, 3 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 62 counties posted rates between 5.9 and 9.9 percent; 35 counties had unemployment rates between 4.5 and 5.8 percent.

“The combined May unemployment rate in North Carolina’s non-metropolitan counties was 4.9 percent,” noted Quinterno. “These 54 non-metropolitan counties are home to 21.9 percent of the state’s labor force. Compared to December 2007, non-metro areas have 4.5 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 27 percent greater. Over that time, the size of the non-metro labor force has fallen by 3.2 percent. In fact, non-metropolitan North Carolina has been responsible for the entire decline in the state’s labor force that has occurred since late 2007.”

Earlier this year, the Labor and Economic Analysis Division implemented new definitions of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties consistent with federal changes made based on the 2010 Census. With those updates, North Carolina now has 46 metropolitan counties and 54 non-metropolitan ones. Additionally, the state now has 15 metropolitan statistical areas, up from 14; the addition is the three-county New Bern metro area.

Between April and May, unemployment rates rose in all 15 of the state’s metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (8.6 percent), followed by Fayetteville (7.6 percent) and Greenville (6.5 percent). Asheville had the lowest unemployment rate (4.7 percent), followed by Raleigh-Cary (4.9 percent), Durham-Chapel Hill (5.1 percent), Burlington (5.4 percent), and Wilmington (5.5 percent).

Compared to May 2014, unemployment rates in May 2015 were lower in 87 counties and in 14 metro areas. Over the year, however, labor force sizes decreased in 52 counties and in 4 metros. The statewide labor force (unadjusted), meanwhile, was 2.1 percent larger (+100,073 individuals) in May 2015 than it was in May 2014.

All of the year-over-year growth in the size of the state’s labor force occurred in metro areas, which collectively added 115,949 persons (+3.2 percent). Among metros, Burlington’s labor force grew at the fastest rate (+10.1 percent) over the course of the year, followed by Charlotte (+6.7 percent) and Raleigh (+5.6 percent).

Decreases in labor force sizes occurred in Fayetteville (-9.3 percent), Jacksonville (-3.4 percent), and Goldsboro (-0.9 percent), while the size of the labor force in Greenville essentially was unchanged.

With those changes, metro areas now are home to 78.2 percent of the state’s labor force, with 56.2 percent of the labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

Improvements in North Carolina’s overall labor market are being driven by developments in the Charlotte, Research Triangle, and Piedmont Triad regions. Over the year, unemployment rates fell in 4 of the 5 metro areas that constitute those regions and held steady in 1. Collectively, employment in the 3 broad regions has risen by 10.9 percent since December 2007, and the combined unemployment rate in May totaled 5.4 percent, as compared to 4.5 percent in December 2007. These regions also were responsible for almost all of the employment growth that occurred over the year.

Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest May unemployment rate (5.2 percent), followed by Charlotte (5.7 percent) and the Piedmont Triad (5.8 percent).

Last month, the number of regular unemployment insurance initial claims filed in North Carolina totaled 19,822 down from the 23,306 initial claims filed a year earlier (-14.9 percent). Mecklenburg County was home to greatest number of regular initial claims (2,456), followed by Wake (1,677), Guilford (1,354), Forsyth (830), and Cumberland (729) counties.

In May 2015, North Carolinians received a (nominal) total of $23.2 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, down from the (nominal) $35.4 million received in May 2014. This decline (-34.5 percent) is attributable to a mix of factors, such as drops in the number of insurance claims resulting from economic improvements and legal changes that have restricted eligibility for unemployment insurance compensation.

“Many labor markets across North Carolina, particularly some of the largest metropolitan markets, have experienced improvements over the past year,” said Quinterno. “At the same time, the overall pace of recovery remains subdued, with many non-metropolitan places actually losing ground. Over five years into a recovery, the health of local labor markets still can’t be ignored.”

NC’s Labor Market Improved Incrementally

CHAPEL HILL, NC (June 19, 2015) – In May, employers in North Carolina added 10,400 more jobs than they cut, with net gains occurring in the public and private sectors. Over the year, North Carolina gained 108,800 more jobs than it lost, due entirely to gains in the private sector. Although the statewide unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent in May, the rate still was 0.6 percentage points lower than had been the case a year earlier.

These findings come from new data released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Department of Commerce.

“Through the first five months of 2015, North Carolina gained 40,100 more payroll jobs than it lost,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “For comparison, the corresponding figure in 2014 was a gain of 41,500 jobs. Even with the payroll gains logged over the last few years, North Carolina now has just 75,200 more jobs, or 1.8 percent more jobs, than it did at the end of 2007.”

Between April 2015 and May 2015, North Carolina employers added 10,400 more jobs than they cut (+0.2 percent). Private-sector payrolls gained, on net, 8,900 positions (+0.3 percent), and public-sector payrolls added, on net, 1,500 jobs (+0.2 percent), due to net hiring by local governments. Within private industry, the education and health care services sector added the most payroll jobs (+2,800, +0.5 percent), followed by the construction (+2,400, +1.3 percent) and leisure and hospitality services sector (+2,300, +0.5 percent). Overall, payroll levels rose in every major private industry sector except for the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (-3,700, -0.5 percent).

A revision to the April payroll data found that the state gained more jobs than first reported (+12,400 versus an original estimate of +11,100 jobs). With that revision, North Carolina now has, on net, 75,200 more payroll positions (+1.8 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted an average of 6,400 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 402,000 positions (+10.5 percent).

Over the year, North Carolina employers added 108,800 more jobs than they cut (+2.6 percent). Private-sector payrolls gained, on net, 109,400 positions (+3.2 percent), while public-sector payrolls lost, on net, 600 jobs (-0.1 percent). Within private industry, every major industrial sector netted payroll jobs, with the professional and business services sector gaining the most positions (+23,200 or +4.1 percent, with 52 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste management services subsector).

“The steady payroll growth experienced recently in North Carolina has not closed the state’s job gap, a gap that may be as high as 418,000 jobs,” noted Quinterno. “North Carolina indeed has slightly more jobs than it did when the recession started, but the state’s labor market remains well short of a full recovery.”

According to the monthly household data, the statewide unemployment rate rose in May to 5.7 percent. Last month’s rise in the unemployment rate was attributable in large part to an increase in the size of the labor force (+29,396 persons, +0.6 percent). Over the month, the number of employed North Carolinians increased by 16,769 persons (+0.4 percent), and the number of unemployed persons rose by 12,627 individuals (+4.9 percent).

Over the past year, the statewide unemployment rate fell by 0.6 percentage points, dropping to 5.7 percent from 6.3 percent, with the number of unemployed North Carolinians decreasing by 19,275 persons (-6.6 percent). During that same period, the number of employed persons rose by 158,939 individuals (+3.7 percent), while the size of the labor force increased by 139,664 persons (+3 percent). This suggests that the labor market managed to accommodate new members of the labor force and move some unemployed persons into jobs.

Other improvements recorded over the course of the year include a rise in the share of working-age North Carolinians participating in the labor market (to 61.4 percent from 60.3 percent) and in the share of working-age North Carolinians who are employed (to 57.9 percent from 56.5 percent). Although both of these measures have increased recently, they remain not too far above the lowest monthly rates recorded at any point since January 1976.

Between May 2014 and May 2015, the number of claimants of regular state-funded insurance fell by 14.9 percent, dropping to 19,822 from 23,306. Also in May 2015, the state paid a (nominal) total of $23.2 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, an amount 34.5 percent lower than the (nominal) total of $35.4 million paid in May 2014.

“North Carolina’s labor market has improved in many ways over the past year, but those improvements have come slowly,” said Quinterno. “North Carolina has managed to add enough jobs to keep pace with the growth in the size of the labor force and to close some of the sizable job gap that was created during the recession, but the pace of growth has not accelerated radically. Incremental progress, at best, remains the troubling norm in North Carolina.”

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 5/30/2015

For the benefit week ending on May 30, 2015, North Carolinians filed some 4,890 initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 34,659 claims for state-funded continuing benefits. Compared to the prior week, there were more initial claims and more continuing claims. These figures come from data released by the US Department of Labor.

Averaging new and continuing claims over a four-week period — a process that helps adjust for seasonal fluctuations and better illustrates trends — shows that an average of 4,665 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 34,127 continuing claims. Compared to the previous four-week period, the average number of initial claims was lower, and the average number of continuing claims was higher.

One year ago, the four-week average for initial claims stood at 5,456, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 53,138.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.97 million versus 3.89 million). Nevertheless, there are still fewer covered workers than there were in the middle of 2008, which means that payrolls are smaller today than they were some eight years ago.

The graph (below right) shows the changes  in unemployment insurance claims measured as a share of covered employment in North Carolina since the recession’s start in December 2007.Untitled

Both new and continuing claims have peaked for this cycle, and the four-week averages of new and continuing claims have fallen considerably. The four-week average of initial claims, when measured as a share of covered employment, is near the lowest level recorded since early 2008, while the four-week average of continuing claims also is near the lowest level recorded since early 2008.

Note that the recent year-over-year declines in new and continuing claims are not necessarily indicative of an improving labor market. State legislation that took effect on July 1, 2013, made major changes to insurance eligibility criteria, and the more stringent criteria eliminate claims that would have been valid prior to July 1, 2013. Additionally, the legislation reduced the maximum number of weeks  of state-funded insurance for which a claimant is eligible — an action that reduces the number of continuing claims.

To place the numbers in context, consider how the four-week average of initial claims (4,655) was 14.7 percent lower than the figure recorded one year ago (5,456), while the average number of continuing claims was 35.8 percent lower (34,127 versus 53,138). Given the modest rate of job growth that has occurred in North Carolina over the past year, such declines likely are, at least in part, products of changes to unemployment insurance laws rather than improvements in underlying economic conditions.

Local Employment Conditions Improve

CHAPEL HILL, NC (June 3, 2015) – Between April 2014 and April 2015, unemployment rates fell in 95 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in all 15 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Over the same period, the size of the local labor force shrank in 53 counties and in 2 metro areas.

These findings come from new estimates released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“Local unemployment rates declined throughout North Carolina over the past year,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “While noteworthy, the declines in local unemployment rates do not alter the fact that many local labor markets still have not recovered from the last recession.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 1.5 percent more payroll jobs (+63,500). In April 2015, the state gained 11,100 more jobs than it lost (+0.3 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 6,300 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 390,000 payroll jobs (+10.2 percent).

Between March and April of 2015, local unemployment rates decreased in 89 of the state’s 100 counties, increased in 6 counties, and held constant in 5 counties. Individual county rates in April ranged from 3.9 percent in Orange and Buncombe counties to 12.8 percent in Graham County. Overall, 2 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 61 counties posted rates between 5.3 and 9.9 percent.

“The combined unemployment rate in North Carolina’s non-metropolitan counties in April was 4.2 percent,” noted Quinterno. “These 54 non-metropolitan counties are home to 21.8 percent of the state’s labor force. Compared to December 2007, non-metro areas have 5 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 8.4 percent greater. Over that time, the size of the non-metro labor force has fallen by 4.5 percent. In fact, non-metropolitan North Carolina has been responsible for the entire decline in the state’s labor force that has occurred since late 2007.”

Earlier this year, the Labor and Economic Analysis Division implemented new definitions of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties consistent with federal changes made based on the 2010 Census. With those updates, North Carolina now has 46 metropolitan counties and 54 no-nmetropolitan ones. Additionally, the state now has 15 metropolitan statistical areas, up from 14; the addition is the three-county New Bern metro area.

Between March and April, unemployment rates fell in 13 of the state’s 15 metro areas, increased in 1 metro area, and held steady in 1 metro area. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (7.9 percent), followed by Fayetteville (6.8 percent) and New Bern (5.7 percent). Asheville had the lowest unemployment rate (4.1 percent), followed by Raleigh-Cary (4.3 percent), Durham-Chapel Hill (4.4 percent), Burlington (4.7 percent), and Wilmington and Winston-Salem (both 4.9 percent).

Compared to April 2014, unemployment rates in April 2015 were lower in 95 counties and in all 15 metro areas. Over the year, however, labor force sizes decreased in 53 counties and in 2 metros. The statewide labor force (unadjusted), meanwhile, was 1.9 percent larger (+89,077 individuals) in April 2015 than it was in April 2014.

All of the year-over-year growth in the size of the state’s labor force occurred in metro areas, which collectively added 101,653 persons (+2.8 percent). Among metros, Burlington’s labor force grew at the fastest rate (+9.5 percent) over the course of the year, followed by Charlotte (+6.7 percent) and Raleigh (+4.7 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 78.2 percent of the state’s labor force, with 56.2 percent of the labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

In the long term, improvements in North Carolina’s overall labor market depend on growth in the Charlotte, Research Triangle, and Piedmont Triad regions. Over the year, unemployment rates fell in 4 of the 5 metro areas that constitute those regions and held steady in 1. Collectively, employment in the 3 broad regions has risen by 10.4 percent since December 2007, and the combined unemployment rate in April totaled 4.8 percent, as compared to 4.5 percent in December 2007. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest April unemployment rate (4.5 percent), followed by the Piedmont Triad and Charlotte (both 5.1 percent).

Last month, the number of regular unemployment insurance initial claims filed in North Carolina totaled 16,151 down from the 19,181 initial claims filed a year earlier (-15.8 percent). Mecklenburg County was home to greatest number of regular initial claims (2,250), followed by Wake (1,628), Guilford (1,115), Forsyth (697), and Cumberland (643) counties.

In April 2015, North Carolinians received a (nominal) total of $22.4 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, down from the (nominal) $38.5 million received in April 2014. This decline (-41.8 percent) is attributable to a mix of factors, such as drops in the number of insurance claims resulting from economic improvements and legal changes that restricted eligibility for unemployment insurance compensation.

“Many labor markets across North Carolina, particularly some of the largest metropolitan ones, experienced improvements over the past year,” said Quinterno. “At the same time, many local labor markets still have not recovered from the last recession, and in many respects, the state’s labor market remains far from healthy—a reality that policymakers cannot choose to

North Carolina Labor Market Improves, But Slowly

CHAPEL HILL, NC (May 27, 2015) – In April, employers in North Carolina added 11,100 more jobs than they cut, with net gains occurring in the public and private sectors. Over the year, North Carolina gained 106,600 more jobs than it lost, due entirely to gains in the private sector. Although the statewide unemployment rate rose to 5.5 percent in April, the rate still was almost a full percentage point lower than had been the case a year earlier.

These findings come from new data released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Department of Commerce.

“So far in 2015, North Carolina has gained 28,400 more payroll jobs than it has lost,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “For comparison, the corresponding number in 2014 was a gain of 32,000 jobs. Even with the steady payroll gains logged over the last few years, North Carolina has just 63,500 more jobs, or 1.5 percent more jobs, than it did 7.3 years earlier.”

Between March 2015 and April 2015, North Carolina employers added 11,100 more jobs than they cut (+0.3 percent). Private-sector payrolls gained, on net, 7,200 positions (+0.2 percent), and public-sector payrolls added, on net, 3,900 jobs (+0.5 percent), due chiefly to net hiring by local governments. Within private industry, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector added 3,100 payroll jobs (+0.4 percent), with all of the gain occurring in the retail trade subsector. The leisure and hospitality services sector also added 3,100 jobs (+0.7 percent), with 61 percent of the gain originating in the accommodation and food services subsector. Overall, payroll levels rose in six major private industrial sectors, and fell in four sectors.

A revision to the March payroll data found that the state lost fewer jobs than first reported (-1,800 jobs versus an original estimate of -2,600 jobs). With that revision, North Carolina now has, on net, 63,500 more payroll positions (+1.5 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted an average of 6,300 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 390,300 positions (+10.2 percent).

Over the year, North Carolina employers added 106,600 more jobs than they cut (+2.6 percent). Private-sector payrolls gained, on net, 108,200 positions (+3.2 percent), while public-sector payrolls lost, on net, 1,600 jobs (-0.2 percent). Within private industry, virtually every major industrial sector netted payroll jobs, with the professional and business services sector gaining the most positions (+23,000 or +4.1 percent, with 60 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste management services subsector).

“The steady payroll growth experienced over the past year remains insufficient to close the job gap that exists in North Carolina, a gap that may be as high as 425,000 jobs,” noted Quinterno. “North Carolina indeed has slightly more jobs than it did when the recession started, but the state’s labor market remains well short of a full recovery.”

According to the monthly household data, the statewide unemployment rate rose in April to 5.5 percent, which still is one of the lowest monthly rates logged since early 2008. Last month’s rise in the unemployment rate was attributable in large part to an increase in the size of the labor force (+33,169 persons, +0.7 percent). Over the month, the number of employed North Carolinians increased by 25,712 persons (+0.6 percent), and the number of unemployed persons rose by 7,457 individuals (+2.9 percent).

Over the past year, the statewide unemployment rate fell by almost a full percentage point, dropping to 5.5 percent from 6.4 percent, with the number of unemployed North Carolinians decreasing by 34,427 persons (-11.7 percent). During that same period, the number of employed persons rose by 143,339 individuals (+3.3 percent), while the size of the labor force increased by 108,912 persons (+2.4 percent). This suggests that the labor market managed to accommodate new members of the labor force and move unemployed persons into jobs.

Other improvements recorded over the course of the year include a rise in the share of working-age North Carolinians participating in the labor market (to 61.1 percent from 60.4 percent) and the share of working-age North Carolinians who are employed (to 57.7 percent from 56.6 percent). Although both of these measures have increased recently, they remain not too far from the lowest monthly rates recorded at any point since January 1976.

Between April 2014 and April 2015, the number of claimants of regular state-funded insurance fell by 16.4 percent, dropping to 18,384 from 21,988. Also in April 2015, the state paid a (nominal) total of $22.4 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, an amount 41.8 percent lower than the (nominal) total of $38.5 million paid in April 2014.

“North Carolina’s labor market has improved in many ways over the past year, but those improvements have come slowly,” said Quinterno. “In recent months, North Carolina has managed to add enough jobs to keep pace with the growth in the size of the labor force and to slowly close some of the sizable job gap that was created during the recession. Yet the labor market still is not generating enough jobs, quickly enough to employ all those who want work.”