08.28.2013 News Releases, Policy Points

Local Unemployment Rates Down Again In July

CHAPEL HILL, NC (August 28, 2013) – Between July 2012 and July 2013, unemployment rates fell in 97 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in all of the state’s 14 metropolitan areas. Over that same period, the size of the labor force decreased in 70 counties and in 7 metro areas. These findings come from new estimates released by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“Local unemployment rates throughout North Carolina have fallen over the course of 2013,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Unemployment rates nevertheless remain elevated, with 38 counties and 3 metro areas posting unemployment rates of at least 10 percent. In July 2008, in contrast, three counties 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 2.7 percent fewer jobs (-114,400) and has seen its unadjusted unemployment rate climb to 9.1 percent from 4.7 percent. In July, the state gained 8,200 more jobs than it lost (+0.2 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 5,205 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 213,400 positions (+5.6 percent).

Between June 2013 and July 2013, local unemployment rates decreased in 81 of the state’s 100 counties, rose in nine counties, and held steady in 10 counties. Individual county rates ranged from 5.3 percent in Currituck County to 16 percent in Scotland County. Overall, 38 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 55 counties posted rates between 7 and 9.9 percent.

“Non-metropolitan labor markets continue to struggle relative to metropolitan ones,” noted Quinterno. “In July, 10 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 8.7 percent of the metro labor force. Compared to December 2007, the non-metro labor force now has 4.7 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 81.2 percent larger.”

Over the month, unemployment rates fell in 12 metro areas, rose in one, and held steady in one. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (13.3 percent), followed by Fayetteville (10.6 percent) and Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (10 percent). Asheville had the lowest unemployment rate (6.8 percent), followed by Durham-Chapel Hill (7.1 percent) and Raleigh-Cary (7.3 percent).

Compared to July 2012, unemployment rates in July 2013 were lower in 97 counties and 14 metro areas. Over the year, however, labor force sizes decreased in 70 counties and in 7 metros. Among metros, Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir’s labor force contracted at the greatest rate (-1.6 percent), followed by Rocky Mount (-1.1 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 71.7 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 muted. Collectively, employment in those three metro regions has risen by 3.3 percent since December 2007, and the combined July unemployment rate in the three regions equaled 8.5 percent. That was down from the 9.4 percent rate recorded one year ago yet was well above the 6.2 percent rate recorded in July 2008. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest July unemployment rate (7.5 percent), followed by Charlotte and the Piedmont Triad (both 9.2 percent).

“Approximately 3.5 years into a recovery in North Carolina’s labor market, unemployment rates remain extremely elevated across the state,” said Quinterno. “The first half of 2013 was the most disappointing one for job growth since the onset of the recovery, and 2013 currently is shaping up to be the worst year for labor markets in North Carolina since the onset of the recovery.”

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