08.03.2016 News Releases, Policy Points

Local Unemployment Rates Down Over The Year

CHAPEL HILL, NC (August 3, 2016) – From June 2015 to June 2016, unemployment rates (unadjusted) fell in all 100 North Carolina counties and in all 15 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Over the same period, the size of the local labor force grew in 60 counties and in 13 metro areas.

These findings come from new estimates released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“Over the past year, many of North Carolina’s local labor markets have continued their slow recovery from the depths of the last recession,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Recent improvements, while welcome, should not obscure the extent to which many local labor markets continue to underperform almost 6.5 years into a recovery.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 3.9 percent more payroll jobs (+161,400). In June 2016, the state gained 19,400 more jobs than it lost (+0.5 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 6,400 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 488,000 payroll jobs (+12.7 percent).

Between May and June of 2016, local unemployment rates rose in 96 of the state’s 100 counties and decreased in 4 counties. Individual county rates ranged from 3.9 percent in Buncombe County to 9.2 percent in Scotland County. Overall, 1 county posted an unemployment rate greater than 8.7 percent, and 60 counties posted rates between 5.2 and 8.7 percent; 39 counties had unemployment rates between 3.9 and 5.1 percent.

“The combined June unemployment rate in North Carolina’s non-metropolitan counties was 3.9 percent,” noted Quinterno. “These 54 non-metropolitan counties are home to 22 percent of the state’s labor force. Compared to December 2007, non-metro areas have 2.4 percent fewer employed persons and 2.9 percent more unemployed ones. Over that time, the size of the non-metro labor force has fallen by 2.2 percent. In fact, non-metropolitan North Carolina has been responsible for the entire decline in the state’s labor force that has occurred since late 2007.”

In early 2015, the Labor and Economic Analysis Division implemented new definitions of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties consistent with federal changes made based on the 2010 Census. With those revisions, North Carolina now has 46 metropolitan counties and 54 non-metropolitan ones. Additionally, the state has 15 metropolitan statistical areas, up from 14; the addition is the three-county New Bern metropolitan statistical area.

Between May and June, unemployment rates rose in all 15 of the state’s metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (7.5 percent), followed by Fayetteville (6.4 percent) and Greenville (5.9 percent). Asheville had the lowest unemployment rate (4.1 percent), followed by Raleigh-Cary (4.4 percent), and Durham-Chapel Hill (4.7 percent).

Compared to June 2015, unemployment rates in June 2016 were lower in all 100 counties and in all 15 metro areas. Over the year, meanwhile, labor force sizes increased in 60 counties and in 13 metros. The statewide labor force (unadjusted), meanwhile, was 1.1 percent larger in June 2016 than it was in June 2015.

The bulk of the year-over-year growth in the size of the state’s labor force occurred in the state’s metro areas, which collectively grew by 2.1 percent. Among individual metros, Raleigh’s labor force grew at the fastest rate (+4.1 percent) over the course of the year, followed by Charlotte (+3.4 percent) and Wilmington (+2.5 percent). Decreases in labor force sizes occurred in Burlington (-0.8 percent) and Rocky Mount (-1.2 percent).

With those changes, metro areas now are home to 78.2 percent of the state’s labor force, with 56.5 percent of the labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

Improvements in North Carolina’s overall labor market are being driven by developments in the Charlotte, Research Triangle, and Piedmont Triad regions. Collectively, employment in the 3 broad regions has risen by 13.8 percent since December 2007; the combined unemployment rate in June 2016 totaled 4.8 percent, versus 4.5 percent in December 2007. These regions also were responsible for the vast majority of the employment growth that occurred over the year.

Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest unemployment rate (4.7 percent), followed by Charlotte (5 percent) and the Piedmont Triad (5.1 percent).

“Many local labor markets in North Carolina have experienced growth during the ongoing recovery, but those gains have come came at a very leisurely pace,” said Quinterno. “Many of the improvements have been concentrated in the state’s metropolitan areas, especially the Research Triangle, the Piedmont Triad, and Charlotte. Smaller metros and non-metropolitan areas continue to lag behind during a slow recovery that is now almost 6.5 years old.”

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