04.21.2015 News Releases, Policy Points

Statewide Labor Market Improves Year-Over-Year

CHAPEL HILL, NC (April 21, 2015) – In March, employers in North Carolina cut 2,600 more jobs than they added, with net reductions occurring in the private and public sectors. Over the year, however, North Carolina gained 113,700 more jobs than it lost, due entirely to gains in the private sector. Although the statewide unemployment rate rose to 5.4 percent in March, the rate still was a full percentage point lower than had been the case a year earlier.

These findings come from new data released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Department of Commerce.

“The first quarter of 2015 proved to be a relatively uneventful one for job growth in North Carolina,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “So far this year, the state has gained 16,500 more payroll jobs than it has lost. For comparison, the corresponding number in 2014 was a gain of 13,000 jobs. Yet even with the gains, however, North Carolina has just 51,600 more jobs, or 1.2 percent more jobs, than it did over seven years earlier.”

Between February 2015 and March 2015, North Carolina employers cut 2,600 more jobs than they added (-0.1 percent). Private-sector payrolls lost, on net, 1,500 positions (-0.1 percent), and public-sector payrolls lost, on net, 1,100 jobs (-0.2 percent). Within private industry, the construction sector shed the most jobs (-2,400, -1.3 percent), while the professional and business services sector netted the most jobs (+2,700, +0.5 percent, with 55.6 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste management services subsector). Overall, payroll levels fell in six major private industrial sectors, rose in three, and were unchanged in one.

A revision to the February payroll data found that the state gained more jobs than first reported (+17,500 jobs versus an original estimate of +16,800 jobs). With that revision, North Carolina now has, on net, 51,600 more payroll positions (+1.2 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted an average of 6,200 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 378,400 positions (+9.9 percent).

Over the year, North Carolina employers added 113,700 more jobs than they cut (+2.8 percent). Private-sector payrolls gained, on net, 117,300 positions (+3.5 percent), while public-sector payrolls lost, on net, 3,600 jobs (-0.5 percent). Within private industry, virtually every major industrial sector netted payroll jobs, with the professional and business services sector gaining the most positions (+32,900, +5.9 percent, with 64 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste management services subsector).

“The steady payroll growth experienced over the past year remains insufficient to close the job gap that exists in North Carolina,” noted Quinterno. “The fact that North Carolina now has slightly more jobs than it did when the recession started should not be taken to mean that the state’s labor market has recovered fully.”

According to the monthly household data, the statewide unemployment rate rose in March to 5.4 percent, which remains close to the lowest rate logged since early 2008. Last month’s rise in the unemployment rate was attributable in large part to an increase in the size of the labor force (+31,938 persons, +0.7 percent). Over the month, the number of employed North Carolinians increased by 26,012 persons (+0.6 percent), and the number of unemployed persons rose by 5,926 individuals (+2.4 percent).

Over the past year, the statewide unemployment rate fell by a full percentage point, dropping to 5.4 percent from 6.4 percent, with the number of unemployed North Carolinians decreasing by 44,460 persons (-14.9 percent). During that same period, the number of employed persons rose by 118,628 individuals (+2.7 percent), while the size of the labor force increased by 74,168 persons (+1.6 percent). This suggests that the labor market managed to accommodate new members of the labor force and move unemployed persons into jobs.

Other improvements recorded over the course of the year include a rise in the share of working-age North Carolinians participating in the labor market (to 60.7 percent from 60.5 percent) and the share of working-age North Carolinians who are employed (to 57.5 percent from 56.6 percent). Nevertheless, both of these measures remain near the lowest monthly rates recorded at any time since January 1976.

Between March 2014 and March 2015, the number of claimants of regular state-funded insurance fell by 36.7 percent, dropping to 33,359 from 52,666. Also in March 2015, the state paid a (nominal) total of $29.5 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, an amount 40.3 percent lower than the (nominal) total of $49.4 million paid in March 2014.

“North Carolina’s labor market recorded a number of positive improvements over the past year, but those gains must not be taken as signs that the labor market has mended itself,” said Quinterno. “Over five years into a recovery, North Carolina still faces a sizable jobs gap largely because the labor market simply is not generating enough jobs, fast enough to accommodate all those who want and need work.”

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