07.29.2011 News Releases, Policy Points

Still Seeking Signs Of A Recovery

CHAPEL HILL (July 29, 2011) – Between June 2010 and June 2011, unemployment rates rose in 43 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in five of the state’s 14 metropolitan areas. At the same time, 64 counties and 11 metro areas had labor forces in June that were smaller than one year ago. These findings come from new estimates from the Employment Security Commission.

“June was a terrible month for local labor markets across North Carolina,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “There were few signs suggesting that any kind of meaningful recovery was underway.”

Since the economy fell into recession in December 2007, North Carolina has lost, on net, 7.2 percent of its payroll employment base (-301,100 positions) and has seen its unadjusted unemployment rate climb from 4.7 percent to the current level of 10.4 percent. In June, the state lost 9,500 more payroll jobs than it gained. Over the past year, employers cumulatively eliminated 2,700 more payroll jobs than they added.

Unemployment rates rose in 91 counties in June, held steady in three counties, and fell in six counties. Unemployment rates were at or above 10 percent in 68 counties. Individual county rates in June ranged from 5.5 percent in Currituck County to 17.1 percent in Scotland County. Compared to a year ago, unemployment rates were lower in 52 counties, unchanged in five counties, and higher in 43 counties.

“Labor markets in non-metropolitan communities remain especially pressured,” added Quinterno. “Last month, 11.3 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, as opposed to 10 percent of the metro labor force. When compared to December 2007, the non-metro labor force is 2 percent smaller, while the metro labor force is 1.6 percent larger.”

Last month, unemployment rates rose in all of the state’s metropolitan areas. Rocky Mount had the highest rate (13.7 percent), followed by the Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir area (12.5 percent). Durham-Chapel Hill had the lowest rate (8 percent), followed by Asheville (8.2 percent).

Compared to June 2010, unemployment rates were higher in 43 counties and five metro areas. Moreover, 64 counties and 11 metro areas had smaller labor forces. Among metros, Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (-3.2 percent) recorded the largest decline in the size of the labor force, followed by Goldsboro (-2.2 percent). Rocky Mount posted the largest increase (+1.1 percent), followed by Jacksonville (+0.8 percent) and Raleigh-Cary (+0.2 percent).

In the long term, any meaningful recovery will hinge on growth in the state’s three major regions: Charlotte, the Research Triangle, and the Piedmont Triad. Yet growth remains sluggish. Collectively, employment in these three metro regions has fallen by 4.5 percent since December 2007, and the combined June unemployment rate in the three major metros equaled 9.8 percent. Of the three areas, the Research Triangle had the lowest unemployment rate (8.5 percent), followed by the Piedmont Triad (10.6 percent) and Charlotte (11.5 percent).

“North Carolina’s labor market remains down and out,” said Quinterno. “The job growth needed to restore full employment simply is not occurring. Going forward, there are more factors weighing against growth than propelling it forward. Most indicators are pointing in the wrong direction, and 2011 is shaping up to be another miserable year for North Carolina’s local job markets.”

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