07.02.2013 News Releases, Policy Points

Local Unemployment Rates Dip Over The Year

CHAPEL HILL, NC (July 2, 2013) – Between May 2012 and May 2013, unemployment rates fell in 71 of North Carolina’s 100 countries and in 11 of the state’s 14 metropolitan areas. Over the period, the size of the labor force grew in 38 counties and in 9 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 throughout North Carolina over the course of the year,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Unemployment nevertheless remains elevated, with 41 counties and 2 metro areas posting unemployment rates of at least 10 percent. In May 2008, in contrast, just one county and no metro areas logged unemployment rates of at least 10 percent.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 3 percent fewer jobs (-126,100) and has seen its unadjusted unemployment rate climb to 8.9 percent from 4.7 percent. In May, the state lost 5,900 more jobs than it added (- 0.1 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 5,172 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 201,700 positions (+5.3 percent).

Between April 2013 and May 2013, local unemployment rates increased in 87 of the state’s 100 counties. Individual county rates ranged from 5.7 percent in Currituck County to 16.2 percent in Scotland County. Overall, 41 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 53 counties posted rates between 7 and 9.9 percent.

“Non-metropolitan labor markets continue to struggle relative to metropolitan ones,” noted Quinterno. “In May, 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 5 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 80.9 percent larger.”

Over the month, unemployment rates rose in all 14 metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (12.8 percent), followed by Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (10.1 percent) and Fayetteville (9.9 percent). Durham-Chapel Hill had the lowest unemployment rate (6.8 percent), followed by Asheville (6.9 percent) and Raleigh-Cary (7.2 percent).

Compared to May 2012, unemployment rates in May 2013 were lower in 71 counties and 11 metro areas. Over the year, labor force sizes increased in 38 counties and in 9 metros. Among metros, Charlotte’s labor force expanded at the fastest rate (+1.8 percent), followed by that of Asheville (+1.7 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 71.8 percent of the state’s labor force, with 50.3 percent of the labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

In the long term, improvements in overall labor market conditions depend 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 3.6 percent since December 2007, and the combined May unemployment rate in the three regions equaled 8.2 percent. That was down from the 8.7 percent rate recorded one year ago yet was well above the 5.3 percent rate recorded in May 2008. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest May unemployment rate (7.3 percent), followed by Charlotte (9 percent), and the Piedmont Triad (9.1 percent).

“Over three years into a recovery in North Carolina’s labor market, unemployment rates remain abnormally high across the state,” said Quinterno. “Minimal job growth has occurred thus far in 2013, and the odds that a brisk recovery will take hold anytime soon are slim. North Carolina simply lacks enough jobs for all those who want and need work, yet that alarming fact continues to escape the attention of state and federal policymakers.”

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