01.18.2013 News Releases, Policy Points

North Carolina’s Labor Market Grew In 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC (January 18, 2013) – In December, employers in North Carolina added 7,900 more payroll positions than they eliminated (+0.2 percent). With that increase, North Carolina ended 2012 with 72,400 more jobs (+1.8 percent) than with which it started. While the statewide unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) increased by 0.1 percentage points in December, the rate of 9.2 percent was well below the 10.4 percent one posted a year earlier. These findings come from new data released by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Department of Commerce.

“Relatively strong payroll growth during the fourth quarter of 2012, particularly in November, resulted in the highest annual rate of job growth posted in the last five years,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “The labor market nevertheless is recovering at an excruciatingly slow pace. North Carolina still has 4.1 percent fewer jobs than it did five years ago, and if not for uncharacteristically high job growth in November, the jobs gap would be even wider.”

In December, North Carolina employers added 7,900 more jobs than they cut (+0.2 percent). Private-sector payrolls netted 8,300 positions (+0.3 percent), while public-sector payrolls shed 400 jobs (-0.1 percent), due to cuts in local government payrolls (-2,900, -0.7 percent). Within the private sector, education and health services netted the most jobs (+5,900, +1.1 percent), with 76.3 percent of the growth occurring in the health care and social services subsector. The professional and business services sector netted 5,000 jobs, of which 72 percent were in the administrative and waste management subsector. Meanwhile, the finance sector shed the most positions (-2,000, -1.0 percent), with virtually all of contraction occurring in the real estate and rental leasing subsector. The leisure and hospitality services sector lost 1,300 more jobs than it gained (-0.3 percent).

A revision to the November payroll data found that the state gained slightly more jobs than first estimated (+31,600 versus +30,600). With that revision, North Carolina now has, on net, 172,100 fewer payroll positions (-4.1 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state has netted an average of 4,535 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 154,200 positions (+4 percent).

“North Carolina’s labor market posted relatively strong growth in the first quarter of 2012, stumbled during the second quarter, stagnated in the third quarter, but grew sharply in the fourth quarter due primarily to strong growth in November,” added Quinterno. “North Carolina ended the year with 72,400 more jobs that with which it started. The general pattern of 2012 was one of growth across much of the private sector and stasis in the public sector.”

The household data for December also offered an improved view of labor market conditions. Last month, the number of employed North Carolinians rose (+10,398, +0.2 percent), as did the overall size of the labor force (+17,395, +0.4 percent). Yet the number of unemployed persons increased by 6,997 persons (+1.6 percent), and the unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, a rate 1.2 percentage points lower than the December 2011 figure of 10.4 percent.

Over the course of 2012, the total number of unemployed North Carolinians fell by 45,380 (-9.4 percent), and the number of employed persons grew by 121,487 persons (+2.9 percent). The unemployment rate also dropped by 1.2 percentage points and now is hovering near the lowest level recorded since January 2009.

The recent growth in the labor market, however, is weak in relation to the severity of the employment problems facing the state. North Carolina’s unemployment rate has equaled or exceeded 9 percent in every month since January 2009 and has ranged as high as 11.4 percent. Compared to December 2007, which was when the “Great Recession” began, the statewide unemployment rate is 4.2 percentage points higher, and the number of unemployed North Carolinians is 91.9 percent larger. During 2012, some 447,000 North Carolinians, on average, were unemployed in any given month.

Other troubling indicators include a statewide unemployment rate that has exceeded 10 percent in 35 of the last 48 months and depressed labor force participation rates and employment-to-population ratios. While both the labor force participation rate and employment-to-population ratio improved steadily over the last four months of 2012, the two figures remain below their pre-recessionary levels.

“The December employment report showed that North Carolina ended 2012 on a positive note, at least when compared to the dismal labor market performances of recent years,” observed Quinterno. “The improvements do not change the fact that North Carolina’s labor market remains scarred by a sizable jobs shortfall, slow payroll growth, and widespread unemployment. Those are the realities facing the state’s labor market as it enters 2013.”

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