11.02.2012 News Releases, Policy Points

Local Employment Conditions Improved Over The Year

CHAPEL HILL, NC (November 2, 2012) – Between September 2011 and September 2012, unemployment rates fell in every one of North Carolina’s 100 countries and in all 14 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Over the same period, labor force sizes grew in 58 counties and in 11 metro areas. These findings come from new estimates prepared by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“Local unemployment rates fell across North Carolina over the year,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Local labor market conditions nevertheless remained far from healthy in September, with 38 counties and two metros posting unemployment rates of at least 10 percent.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the economy fell into recession, North Carolina has 5.4 percent fewer jobs (-223,700) and has seen its unadjusted unemployment rate climb from 4.7 percent to 8.9 percent. In September, the state gained 100 more payroll jobs than it lost (+/- 0.0 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted an average of 3,310 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 102,600 positions (+2.7 percent).

Between August 2012 and September 2012, the local unemployment rate fell in 97 counties, rose in one county, and was unchanged in two counties. Individual county rates ranged from 5.1 percent in Currituck County to 16.1 percent in Scotland County. Overall, 38 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 62 counties posted rates between 5 and 10 percent.

“Non-metropolitan labor markets continue to struggle relative to metropolitan ones,” noted Quinterno. “In September, 9.9 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 8.5 percent of the metro labor force. Compared to December 2007, the non-metro labor force is now 0.1 percent smaller in size, and 4.7 percent fewer non-metro residents are employed. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed rural persons has grown by 79 percent and totals 132,912. On a positive note, the size of the non-metro labor force essentially held steady over the year, while the number of employed persons rose, and the number of unemployed persons declined.”

Over the month, unemployment rates fell in all 14 metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (12 percent), followed by Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (10.3 percent). Durham-Chapel Hill had the lowest unemployment rate (6.9 percent), followed by Asheville (7.1 percent) and Raleigh-Cary (7.2 percent).

Compared to September 2011, unemployment rates were lower in September 2012 in all 100 counties and in all 14 metros. Over the year, labor force sizes contracted or held steady in 42 counties and in three metros. Among metros, Wilmington’s labor force contracted at the fastest rate (-2.2 percent), followed by Winston-Salem (-0.7 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 71.6 percent of the state’s labor force, with 50.2 percent of the labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

In the long term, any meaningful recovery will hinge on economic and employment growth in the Charlotte, Research Triangle, and Piedmont Triad regions. Yet growth in these metros remains weak. Collectively, employment in these three metro regions has risen by 2.5 percent since December 2007, and the combined September unemployment rate in the three regions equaled 8.3, down from the 9.7 percent rate recorded one year ago. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest unemployment rate (7.3 percent), followed by the Piedmont Triad (9.1 percent), and Charlotte (9.2 percent).

“Despite the broad decline in unemployment rates over the past year, labor market conditions across North Carolina remain far from normal,” said Quinterno. “Unemployment rates remain elevated across the state, and some 421,000 North Carolinians are jobless and seeking work, even though the odds of finding a job remain stacked against them.”

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