03.24.2017 News Releases, Policy Points

North Carolina’s Recovery Turns Seven

CHAPEL HILL, NC (March 24, 2017) – In February 2017, employers in North Carolina collectively added 9,100 more payroll jobs than they cut (+0.2 percent), with small net gains occurring in both the private and public sectors. The monthly household survey, meanwhile, recorded a decrease in both the number of unemployed North Carolinians and in the statewide unemployment rate, which fell to 5.1 percent.

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

“February 2017 marked the seventh anniversary of the start of North Carolina’s labor market recovery from the ‘Great Recession’,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Improvements have been very slow in coming, and as a result, the state’s labor market, while better in some ways, still has not returned to pre-recessionary conditions in other important respects.”

Over the past seven years, North Carolina’s labor market has netted an average of 6,500 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 545,000 positions (+14.2%) from the worst point of the last recession to the present. Today, the state has 4.3 million payroll jobs, up from 3.8 million in February 2010. Yet even with that gain, North Carolina has just 218,000 more payroll jobs than it did when the recession began in December 2007 (+5.2 percent).

“In recent years, North Carolina has gained jobs at a rate of approximately 2 percent per year,” noted Quinterno. “Such a modest rate of growth has done little to generate real improvements in hourly wages, household incomes, and overall living standards.”

Similar patterns emerge when considering household data related to employment. In February, the statewide unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent from 5.3 percent, with the number of unemployed persons declining to 252,452 from 260,064 (-2.9 percent). For comparison, the unemployment rate in February 2010 was 11.3 percent, with the number of unemployed individuals totaling 522,896.

Since February 2010, the state’s labor force has grown by 7.1 percent, rising to 4.9 million from 4.6 million, with the number of employed persons having increased by 14.6 percent, ticking up to 4.7 million from 4.1 million.

“North Carolina’s labor market has improved over the past seven years, and conditions are better today than they were during the worst part of the recession,” explained Quinterno. “The labor market remains far from healthy, however, and its abilities to accommodate all those who want and need work and generate rising wages and incomes remain impaired.”

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