01.27.2016 News Releases, Policy Points

Job Growth in North Carolina Slowed In 2015

CHAPEL HILL, NC (January 26, 2015) – Over the course of 2015, employers in North Carolina added 86,800 more payroll jobs than they cut, with virtually all of the net gains originating in the private sector. Compared to 2014, however, North Carolina added fewer jobs in both absolute and relative terms. Meanwhile, the statewide unemployment rate rose in 2015, climbing to 5.6 percent in December 2015, from 5.4 percent in December 2014.

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

“Payroll job growth in North Carolina slowed in 2015,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “The state netted 86,800 jobs over the course of the year compared to 110,200 in 2014.”

Job growth in 2015 occurred in the same slow manner experienced since early 2010, which is when the state’s labor market began to recover from the last recession. Yet the current pace of monthly job growth—a pace that has averaged 6,400 jobs per month since February 2010—is insufficient to close the state’s sizable job gap anytime soon. Put differently, while North Carolina has more jobs than it did when the recession started, it does not have as many jobs as it needed to accommodate the population growth that has occurred during the same period.

Meanwhile, the statewide unemployment rate and the number of unemployed North Carolinians rose over the course of 2015. In December 2015, the number of unemployed North Carolinians totaled 269,833, up 7.9 percent from the figure recorded a year earlier. During that same span, the statewide unemployment rate rose by 0.2 percentage points, climbing to 5.6 percent from 5.4 percent.

That said, the household data for North Carolina showed some improvements in 2015. The number of employed persons rose by 147,029 (+3.4 percent), while the overall size of the labor force grew by 166,385 persons (+3.6 percent). This suggests that the increase in unemployment was due to more people participating in the labor market in the first place.

Underlying those changes in the labor force data was an increase in the share of working-age North Carolinians participating in the labor market. The labor force participation rate rose over the course of 2015, increasing to 61.3 percent in December 2015 from 59.8 percent in December 2014; incidentally, the December 2014 rate was the lowest posted in any month since January 1976. The share of working-age North Carolinians with a job also increased over the year, rising to 57.8 percent in December 2015 from 56.6 percent in December 2014.

“North Carolina’s labor market logged some improvements in 2015, but those improvements came at a very leisurely pace,” said Quinterno. “That pace is basically sufficient to keep abreast with the growth in the size of the labor force, while bringing about some modest reductions in the large job gap caused by the last recession—a recession that began eight years ago.”

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