03.13.2012 News Releases, Policy Points

NC Job Market Grew In January

CHAPEL HILL (March 13, 2012) – North Carolina’s job market began 2012 by gaining 17,000 more payroll jobs than it lost. Moreover, annual revisions to employment statistics concluded that the state netted more jobs in 2011 than first reported. At the same time, 10.2 percent of the labor force was unemployed in January. These findings come from data released today by the Division of Employment Security.

“January’s job report contained some positive news,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “North Carolina netted jobs, grew its labor force, saw more people become employed, and reduced both the number of unemployed individuals and the statewide unemployment rate. Revisions to 2011 data also showed that the labor market performed better than first estimated.”

In January, North Carolina employers added 17,000 more payroll jobs than they cut. Net gains occurred primarily in the private sector (+15,400), though the public sector also added some jobs (+1,600, due mainly to hiring by local governments). Within the private sector, trade, transportation, and utilities added the most jobs in absolute terms (+6,200, driven almost entirely by gains in the retail trade subsector). Professional and business services added 3,900 positions with the gains split nearly evenly between the professional, scientific, and technical and administrative and waste management subsectors. The manufacturing sector netted 3,100 positions due chiefly to hiring in the nondurable goods subsector. Meanwhile, leisure and hospitality services shed the most positions (-1,200, attributable mainly to a decline in the arts, entertainment, and recreation subsector), followed by construction (-1,000).

A positive annual revision to the 2011 employment data found that the state gained 13,700 more jobs over the course of the year than previously reported (+33,300 versus +19,600). When combined with other data revisions to earlier years, North Carolina now has lost, on net, 227,500 positions, or 5.5 percent of its payroll base, since December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state has netted an average of 4,300 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 98,800 positions (+2.6 percent).

“While the jobs situation in North Carolina appears to be somewhat more positive than previously thought, the state’s labor market remains battered and bruised,” noted Quinterno. “Compared to December 2007, North Carolina has fewer payroll jobs in every major private industry sector except for educational and health services and professional and business services. At current rates of growth, recovery remains a distant destination.”

The household data for January also point to a weak labor market. On the positive side of the ledger, North Carolina experienced an increase in the size of the labor force in January (+6,245, +0.1 percent, as well as a rise in the number of employed North Carolinians (+14,213, +0.3 percent). The number of unemployed persons fell (-7,968, -1.6 percent), as did the unemployment rate. (Note that changes in labor force data for January 2012 may be a function of statistical updates.)

Nevertheless, joblessness remained widespread. There were over twice as many unemployed North Carolinians in January 2012 as there were in December 2007, and the statewide unemployment rate was 5.2 percentage points greater than it was some four years ago. Moreover, the monthly statewide unemployment rate has been at least 10 percent in every month since March 2009.

“New data suggest indicate that North Carolina’s labor market performed somewhat better in 2011 than first thought,” observed Quinterno. “While the job picture appears less bad than previously perceived, that is not the same as saying that the picture looks bright. By any objective measure, North Carolina’s job market remains depressed and continues to make little progress toward undoing the effects of a recession that started four years ago.”

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