04.16.2010 News Releases

NC Labor Market Little Changed in March

CHAPEL HILL (April 16, 2010) – The March employment report released today by the Employment Security Commission points to few changes in the state’s labor market. Job growth remains insufficient to accommodate all those who wish to work, and unemployment remains at an elevated level.

Last month, North Carolina employers added 3,300 more positions than they eliminated; private-sector and public-sector employers contributed roughly equally to that gain. Since December 2007, North Carolina has lost, on net, 280,200 positions or 6.7 percent of its payroll employment base.

“Labor market conditions have stabilized since last September,” says John Quinterno, a principal at South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “2010 has witnessed some slight job creation, consistency in the unemployment rate, and a decline in new unemployment claims, but job growth is insufficient to absorb new workers or those displaced earlier in the recession.”

In March, North Carolina employers added 3,300 more positions than they cut. The public sector gained, on net, 1,600 positions (federal hiring accounted for 38% of the total), and the private sector added, on net, 1,700 positions. Among private industries, leisure and hospitality services gained the most positions (+2,200), followed by manufacturing (+2,100). Professional services posted the largest loss (-2,400), followed by trade, transportation, and utilities (-2,100). Additionally, a downward revision to the February data raised net job losses for that month from 2,800 to 3,800.

“So far in 2010, private-sector employers have added 12,600 more positions than they have eliminated, and employment appears to have leveled off in such hard-hit industries as manufacturing and construction,” adds Quinterno. “Unfortunately, private-sector job growth is not occurring at the pace needed to bring about a swift recovery.”

Despite the recent moderation in job losses, conditions deteriorated over the last year. Compared to March 2009, the state had 61,600 fewer jobs (-1.6 percent). In terms of individual industries, manufacturing (-30,200) and construction (-27,700) lost the greatest number of positions over the past year, while construction also declined the most in relative terms (-13.7 percent). Government employment grew the most in numerical (+17,400 positions) and relative (+2.4 percent) terms.

Moderating labor market conditions are reflected in March’s household data. Last month, the labor force expanded by 0.3 percent as 15,300 additional people sought work. The number of employed individuals rose, and the number of unemployed individuals declined. Consequently, the unemployment rate dipped from 11.2 percent to 11.1 percent. Nevertheless, the past year saw the number of unemployed Tar Heels grow by 7.3 percent and the unemployment rate rise to 11.1 percent from 10.3 percent.

“A jobless recovery clearly is taking shape in North Carolina,” observes Quinterno. “While job losses have abated and some private-sector payroll growth has occurred, the growth is insufficient to accommodate the sizable share of the workforce that is jobless anytime soon.”

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