01.03.2013 News Releases, Policy Points

Local Employment Rates Down Over The Year

CHAPEL HILL, NC (January 3, 2013) – Between November 2011 and November 2012, unemployment rates fell in 95 of North Carolina’s 100 countries and in all 14 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Over that period, the size of the labor force grew in 76 counties and in 14 metro areas. These findings come from new estimates prepared by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“Compared to a year ago, local unemployment rates in November were lower across almost all of North Carolina,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Although the declines in local unemployment rates are positive developments, the drops do not alter the fact that unemployment rates remain abnormally high. In November 2012, 43 counties and two metro areas posted unemployment rates of at least 10 percent. In November 2008, in contrast, just 15 counties and one metro area logged unemployment rates of 10 percent or greater.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 4.3 percent fewer jobs (-181,000) and has seen its unadjusted unemployment rate climb to 9 percent from 4.7 percent. In November, the state added 30,600 more jobs than it lost (+0.8 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 4,400 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 145,300 positions (+3.8 percent).

Between October 2012 and November 2012, local unemployment rose in 81 counties, fell in 13 counties, and held steady in six counties. Individual county rates ranged from 5.7 percent in Orange County to 16.3 percent in Graham County. Overall, 43 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 57 counties posted rates between 5 and 10 percent.

“Non-metropolitan labor markets continue to struggle relative to metropolitan ones,” noted Quinterno. “In November, 10 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 now has 4.2 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 81.9 percent greater. On a positive note, the size of the non-metro labor force increased over the year, and over the same period, the number of employed persons rose; the number of unemployed persons dropped; and the unemployment rate fell by 1.3 percentage points.”

Over the month, unemployment rates rose in 11 metro areas, declined in one metro area, and held steady in two metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (11.7 percent), followed by Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (10.2 percent) and Fayetteville (9.5 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 November 2011, unemployment rates in November 2012 were lower in in 95 counties and in all 14 metro areas. Over the year, labor force sizes increased in 76 counties and in all 14 metros. Among metros, Jacksonville’s labor force expanded at the fastest rate (+4.1 percent), followed by that of Goldsboro (+3.4 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, improvements in overall labor market conditions will hinge on growth in the Charlotte, Research Triangle, and Piedmont Triad regions. Yet growth in these metros remains subdued. Collectively, employment in those three metro regions has risen by 3.3 percent since December 2007, and the combined November unemployment rate in the three regions equaled 8.3. That was down from the 9.3 percent rate recorded one year ago but well above the 6.8 percent rate recorded in November 2008. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest November unemployment rate (7.3 percent), followed by the Piedmont Triad (9 percent), and Charlotte (9.1 percent).

“Labor market conditions across much of North Carolina have improved over the past year, but even with those improvements, conditions are worse than they were in November 2008,” said Quinterno. “Unemployment rates remain elevated across the state, and 1.2 times as many North Carolinians are jobless and seeking work than was the case four years ago.”

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