North Carolina’s labor market ended 2010 little changed from the start of the year. Between December 2009 and November 2010, the most recent month for which data are available, payroll employment in North Carolina rose by just 1,400 positions (+0.04 percent). While the number of unemployed Tar Heels and the the statewide unemployment rate fell during the year, much of the decline was due to a troubling contraction in the size of the state’s labor force. And, little evidence suggests that a robust jobs recovery will take hold in early 2011.
One Year, Two Job Markets
North Carolina’s labor market underwent two distinct phases in 2010 (figure, below). The first half of the year was a time of weak but positive growth. Between January and June, net job growth averaged 6,500 positions per month. Total employment increased at a rate of 0.2 percent per month, while the number of unemployed individuals fell at a monthly rate of 1.5 percent. The labor force also grew at a monthly rate of 0.03 percent. The statewide unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell to 10 percent from 11.1 percent.
Much of that progress was the by-product of public policy supports provided by the federal government through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and related initiatives like the homebuyer tax credit and temporary hiring for the 2010 Census. As those supports faded away during the second half of 2010, North Carolina’s labor market sputtered.
Between July and November, net job loss in the state averaged 7,500 positions per month. Total employment fell at a rate of 0.2 percent per month, while the number of unemployed individuals fell at a monthly pace of 0.4 percent. Yet the labor force also contracted at a a monthly rate of 0.2 percent. The statewide unemployment rate, meanwhile, stagnated at a level fluctuating between 9.6 and 9.8 percent.