News Releases

05.12.2014 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

US Labor Market Nets Jobs In November

CHAPEL HILL, NC (December 5, 2014) – In November, the national labor market added 321,000 more jobs than it lost due primarily to gains in the private sector. Also in November, the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent. While numerous labor market conditions have improved over the past year, joblessness remains a problem in the United States.

“November was the 50th-straight month in which the United States experienced net job growth,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Over the year, the economy netted an average of 228,000 jobs per month, a pace that reduced—but did not fully repair—the damage inflicted on the national labor market during the last recession.”

In November, the nation’s employers added 321,000 more payroll jobs than they cut. Some 98 percent of the gain originated in the private sector (+314,000), while public employers added 7,000 more positions than they cut. Within the private sector, payroll levels increased the most in the professional and business services sector (+86,000, with 48.5 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste services subsector), followed by the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+71,000, with 70.7 percent of the gain originating in the retail trade subsector) and the education and health services sector (+38,000, with 76.1 percent of the gain originating in the health care subsector.

Payroll levels in all other major industry groups either rose in November or were unchanged from the October levels.

Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for September and October underwent revisions; with the updates, the economy netted 514,000 jobs over those two months, not the 470,000 positions previously reported. With those changes, the average pace of monthly job growth in the United States recorded over the past year rose to 228,000.

“The United States has experienced steady job growth for over four years, but the pace of growth has been modest relative to the country’s needs,” noted Quinterno. “While the United States has more payroll jobs than it did in December 2007, the current average monthly rate of job growth is insufficient to close the jobs gap caused by the recession—a gap now estimated at a little under 6 million jobs—anytime soon.”

Data from the household survey offered mixed news about the health of the United States’ labor market. In November, the number of Americans who were employed was essentially no different than it was in October. At the same time, the overall size of the labor force rose by 119,000 persons (+0.1 percent) between October and November. Meanwhile, the share of working-age Americans participating in the labor force held steady in November, as did the share of working-age Americans with a job.

In November, 9.1 million Americans were unemployed (5.8 percent), while 6.9 million individuals worked part time despite preferring full-time positions. Another 698,000 individuals (not seasonally adjusted) were so discouraged about their job prospects that they had stopped searching for work altogether. Those persons were part of a larger population of 2.1 million Americans who were marginally attached to the labor force.

Compared to a year ago, 2.8 million more Americans were working in November, and 1.7 million fewer persons were unemployed. At the same time, the share of the working-age population with a job (59.2 percent) remained at a depressed level, while the share of the population that was participating in the labor force fell to 62.8 percent from 63 percent.

Last month, the unemployment rate was higher for adult male workers than adult female workers (5.4 percent versus 5.3 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (11.1 percent) and Hispanic workers (6.6 percent) than among white ones (4.9 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 17.7 percent.

Additionally, 4.5 percent of all veterans were unemployed in November, and the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 5.7 percent. At the same time, 10.8 percent of Americans with disabilities were jobless and seeking work (not seasonally adjusted).

Jobs remained comparatively hard to find in November. Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 11.4 percent, down from the 13.1 percent rate logged a year ago. Among unemployed workers, 30.7 percent had been jobless for at least six months, as opposed to 37.4 percent a year earlier. And the average spell of unemployment equaled 33 weeks, down from 37.1 weeks in November 2013.

In November, the leading cause of unemployment remained a job loss or the completion of a temporary job, which was the reason cited by 49 percent of unemployed persons. Another 30.3 percent of unemployed persons were re-entrants to the labor market, while 11.6 percent were new entrants. Voluntary job leavers accounted for the remaining 9.1 percent of the total.

“The November employment report offered a portrait of a national job market that is improving yet remains far from healed,” observed Quinterno. “Weak growth, in turn, is preventing American workers from experiencing improvements in their wages and living standards despite the fact that they have become more economically productive.”

21.11.2014 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

North Carolina Payrolls Grow In October

CHAPEL HILL, NC (November 21, 2014) – In October, employers in North Carolina added 17,200 more payroll jobs than they cut (+0.4 percent), due mainly to hiring in the private sector. The monthly household survey, meanwhile, logged a drop in the unemployment rate to 6.3 percent. With last month’s net job growth, North Carolina now has slightly more jobs than it did in December 2007, yet the state also has 28.4 percent more unemployed residents than it did almost seven years ago, as well as an unemployment rate that is 1.3 percentage points higher.

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

“The October employment report was consistent with the pattern of modest jobs growth that has characterized North Carolina’s slow recovery from the last recession,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “North Carolina netted jobs in October and now has slightly more jobs than it did in December 2007, but that is not the same thing as a full labor market recovery.”

Between September 2014 and October 2014, North Carolina employers added 17,200 more jobs than they cut (+0.4 percent). Private-sector payrolls netted 13,700 positions (+0.4 percent), and public-sector payrolls netted 3,500 jobs (+0.5 percent), owing primarily to hiring by local governments (+7,500, +1.7 percent). Within private industry, the education and health services sector netted the most jobs (+6,100, +1.1 percent), with all of the hiring originating in the health care and social services subsector. The leisure and hospitality sector netted 3,500 jobs (+0.8 percent, with 77.1 percent of the gain originating in the accommodation and food service subsector), followed by the other services sector (+2,300, +1.5 percent). Meanwhile, the finance sector shed the most jobs (-2,000 jobs, -0.9 percent). All other major industrial sectors experienced modest changes in payroll sizes.

A revision to the September 2014 payroll data found that the state gained 3,300 fewer jobs that month than first estimated (+10,700 versus +14,000). With the revision, North Carolina now has, on net, slightly more payroll jobs (+15,900, +0.4 percent) than it did in December 2007, which is when the “Great Recession” began nationally. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state has netted an average of 6,155 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 344,700 positions (+9 percent).

Note that the return of North Carolina’s payroll size to the pre-recession level does not mean that the state’s labor market has recovered. Over the past 6.75 years, North Carolina has needed not only to replace the jobs lost during the recession, but also to add jobs to keep pace with the growth of the working-age population. By one estimate, North Carolina still is 441,000 payroll jobs short of the number it should have added since late 2007 to accommodate the 11 percent rate of population growth that has occurred since then. At the current pace of net job growth, it would take another 72 months to fill that gap, holding all else equal.

“Although North Carolina has experienced job growth in 2014, the pace of growth has been modest,” noted Quinterno. “Over the first 10 months of the year, payroll employment in North Carolina expanded by 1.9 percent. The comparable rate in 2013 was 2 percent, and in 2012, the comparable rate was 1.6 percent. These rates are consistent with a sluggish recovery.”

In contrast to the payroll data, the household data recorded October pointed to a labor market that has yet to recover the ground lost during the recession. Last month, the statewide unemployment rate dipped to 6.3 percent from 6.7 percent, while the number of unemployed individuals fell by 16,685 (-5.4 percent). At the same time, the number of employed North Carolinians rose (+17,508, +0.4 percent). And the size of the labor force essentially held steady at 4.6 million persons.

Over the year, the statewide unemployment rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, dropping to 6.7 percent from 7.5 percent, with the number of unemployed North Carolinians decreasing by 54,551 persons (-15.7 percent). However, 47.8 percent of the decline was attributable to people who left the labor force entirely rather than to those who became employed. If those 26,104 leavers from the labor force were added back and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate in October would have equaled 6.8 percent. Even if 50 percent of those individuals were added back to the labor force and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate would have equaled 6.6 percent.

Year-over-year declines in the statewide labor force participation rate provide additional evidence of a labor market with problematic underlying dynamics. In October, the share of working-age North Carolinians participating in the labor market was 60.3 percent, which was lower than the 61.3 percent figure logged a year ago and was tied for the lowest monthly rate recorded at any time since January 1976.

In addition, another important measure of labor utilization, the employment-to-population ratio, fell over the year, dropping to 56.5 percent from 56.8 percent. The current share of working-age North Carolinians with a job is just slightly above the lowest rate logged at any point since 1976.

The October labor market report provides additional insight into the effects of the extensive changes to the state’s system of unemployment insurance implemented in July 2013. Between September and October, the number of claimants of regular state-funded insurance fell by 10.3 percent, dropping to 33,283 from 37,107. Compared to a year earlier, 27,842 fewer individuals received regular state-funded insurance in October (-45.5 percent).

Also in October, the state paid a (nominal) total of $27.9 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, an amount 53.7 percent lower than the (nominal) total of $60.2 million paid in October 2013.

“North Carolina netted jobs in October, but even with those gains, the state simply is not adding jobs at a rapid enough pace to keep pace with the growth in the working-age population, and that is why joblessness remains a problem across much of the state,” added Quinterno. “While the state now has the same number of jobs as it did when the last recession started, that development does not signal a full labor market recovery. On the contrary, weak job growth and joblessness remain significant problems.”

29.10.2014 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

Local Unemployment Rates Fall Across North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, NC (October 29, 2014) – Between September 2013 and September 2014, unemployment rates fell in 98 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in all 14 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Yet over the same period, the size of the local labor force shrank in 78 counties and in 9 metro areas.

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

“Local unemployment rates have fallen steadily across much of North Carolina over the past year,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “At the same time, the declines do not alter the fact that unemployment remains a serious problem. In fact, 34 counties and 4 metro areas had unemployment rates in September 2014 that exceeded those posted in September 2008.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 0.1 percent more payroll jobs (+2,000). In September, the state gained 14,000 more jobs than it lost (+0.3 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 6,015 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 330,800 positions (+8.6 percent).

Between August and September 2014, local unemployment rates decreased in 98 of the state’s 100 counties, increased in one county, and held constant in one county. Individual county rates in September ranged from 4.2 percent in Currituck County to 12.2 percent in Graham County. Overall, 3 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 60 counties posted rates between 6.1 and 9.9 percent.

“Non-metropolitan labor markets continue to lag behind metropolitan ones,” noted Quinterno. “In September, 6.8 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 5.8 percent of the metro labor force. Compared to December 2007, the non-metro labor force now has 5.1 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 15.4 percent larger. Over that time, the size of the non-metro labor force has fallen by 3.9 percent. In fact, North Carolina’s total labor force in September would have been 1.1 percent larger if the size of the non-metropolitan labor force had held steady, all else being equal”

Between August and September, unemployment rates fell in all of the state’s 14 metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (8.8 percent), followed by Fayetteville (7.1 percent) and Goldsboro, Jacksonville, and Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (all at 6.5 percent). Asheville had the lowest unemployment rate (4.6 percent), followed by Durham-Chapel Hill (4.9 percent) and Raleigh-Cary (5 percent).

Compared to September 2013, unemployment rates in September 2014 were lower in 98 counties and all 14 metro areas. Over the year, however, labor force sizes decreased in 78 counties and in 9 metros. And the statewide labor force (seasonally adjusted) was 0.7 percent smaller (-31,038 individuals) in September 2014 than it was in September 2013.

Among metros, Rocky Mount’s labor force contracted at the fastest rate (-2.9 percent) over the course of the year, followed by Fayetteville (-2.3 percent) and Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (-1.9 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 72.3 percent of the state’s labor force, with 51.1 percent of the labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

In the long term, improvements in overall labor market conditions depend on growth in the Charlotte, Research Triangle, and Piedmont Triad regions. Collectively, employment in the three metro regions has risen by 6.2 percent since December 2007, and the combined unemployment rate in September totaled 5.6 percent, as compared to 6 percent in September 2008. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest unemployment rate (5.1 percent), followed by Charlotte (6.2 percent) and the Piedmont Triad (6.1percent).

The local employment report for September also provided insights into the effects of the extensive changes to the state’s system of unemployment insurance implemented in 2013. Last month, the number of regular unemployment insurance initial claims filed in North Carolina totaled 21,023, down from the 26,051 initial claims filed a year earlier (-19.3 percent).

Mecklenburg County was home to greatest number of regular initial claims (2,517), followed by Wake (1,767), Guilford (1,106), Cumberland (786), and Forsyth (698) counties.

In September 2014, North Carolinians received a (nominal) total of $36.3 million in regular state-funded and federal unemployment insurance compensation, down from the (nominal) $80.4 million received in September 2013. This decline (-54.9 percent) is attributable to a mix of factors, such as drops in the number of insurance claims resulting from economic improvements and legal changes that restricted eligibility for insurance compensation.

Additionally, the state’s decision to exit the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program reduced the amount of federal unemployment insurance compensation flowing into the state. Between September 2013 and September 2014, the amount of federal unemployment insurance benefits paid to North Carolinians fell by 71.7 percent, dropping to a (nominal) total of $1.3 million from a (nominal) total of $4.6 million. (Note that the US Congress allowed the EUC program to expire at the start of 2014.)

“Even with recent improvements in certain important indicators, many local labor markets—non-metropolitan ones in particular—continue to underperform and have yet to recover from the last recession,” said Quinterno. “The September data were consistent with the basic pattern of slow growth that has characterized the state’s economy for the past 4.5 years.”

21.10.2014 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

North Carolina Payrolls Expand In September

CHAPEL HILL, NC (October 21, 2014) – In September, employers in North Carolina added 14,000 more payroll jobs than they cut (+0.3 percent), due entirely to hiring in the private sector. The monthly household survey, meanwhile, recorded a drop in the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, although the size of the labor force fell over the month. With last month’s changes in payroll levels, North Carolina now has approximately the same number of jobs as it did in December 2007, yet the state also has 35.7 percent more unemployed residents than it did 6.75 years ago, as well as an unemployment rate that is 1.7 percentage points higher.

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

“The September employment report was consistent with the relatively uninspiring performance turned in by North Carolina’s labor market in recent years,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “North Carolina netted jobs in September, but the state also experienced declines in the size of the labor force and in the number of employed persons. While certain conditions in the state have improved over the last year, the labor market remains far from recovered.”

Between August 2014 and September 2014, North Carolina employers added 14,000 more jobs than they cut (+0.3 percent). Private-sector payrolls netted 16,700 positions (+0.5 percent), but public-sector payrolls lost, on net, 2,700 jobs (-0.4 percent), owing primarily to net reductions by state government (-3,200, -1.6 percent). Within private industry, the professional and business services sector netted the most jobs (+7,400, +1.3 percent), with 87.8 percent of that gain originating in the administrative and waste services subsector. The education and health services sector netted 4,700 jobs (+0.8 percent), followed by the finance sector (+4,000, +1.9 percent). Meanwhile, the leisure and hospitality services sector shed the most jobs (-2,700 jobs, -0.6 percent). All other major industrial sectors experienced modest changes in payroll sizes.

A revision to the August 2014 payroll data found that the state gained 2,300 more jobs that month than first estimated (+14,800 versus +12,500). With the revision, North Carolina now has, on net, slightly more payroll jobs (+2,000, +0.1 percent) than it did in December 2007, which is when the “Great Recession” began nationally. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state has netted an average of 6,015 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 330,800 positions (+8.6 percent).

Note that the return of North Carolina’s payroll size to the pre-recession level does not mean that the state’s labor market has recovered. Over the past 6.75 years, North Carolina needed not only to replace the jobs lost during the recession, but also to add jobs to keep pace with the growth of the working-age population. By one estimate, North Carolina is 449,000 payroll jobs short of the number it should have added since late 2007 to accommodate population growth.

“Although 2014 has seen job growth across North Carolina, the pace of payroll growth remains moderate,” noted Quinterno. “Over the first nine months of the year, the state netted an average of 7,300 jobs per month, a pace that is insufficient to close the state’s job gap anytime soon.”

In contrast to the payroll data, the household data recorded in September painted a more negative picture of the state’s labor market. Last month, the statewide unemployment rate dipped to 6.7 percent from 6.8 percent, while the number of unemployed individuals fell by 4,563 (-1.4 percent). At the same time, the number of employed North Carolinians dropped slightly (-5,622, -0.1 percent). The decline in the unemployment rate therefore was attributable mathematically to a contraction in the size of the labor force (-10,185 persons, -0.2 percent).

Over the past year, the statewide unemployment rate fell by a full percentage point, dropping to 6.7 percent from 7.7 percent, with the number of unemployed North Carolinians decreasing by 49,243 persons (-13.7 percent). However, 63 percent of the decline was attributable to people who left the labor force entirely rather than those who became employed. If those 31,038 leavers from the labor force were added back and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate in September would have equaled 7.3 percent. Even if 50 percent of those individuals were added back to the labor force and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate would have equaled 7 percent.

Year-over-year declines in the statewide labor force participation rate provide additional evidence of a labor market with problematic underlying dynamics. In September, the share of working-age North Carolinians participating in the labor market was 60.3 percent, which was lower than the 61.5 percent figure logged a year ago, not to mention the lowest monthly rate recorded at any time since January 1976.

In addition, another important measure of labor utilization, the employment-to-population ratio, fell over the year, dropping to 56.3 percent from 56.7 percent. The current share of working-age North Carolinians with a job now is tied at the lowest level logged at any point since 1976.

The September labor market report provides additional insight into the effects of the extensive changes to the state’s system of unemployment insurance implemented in July 2013. Between August and September, the number of claimants of regular state-funded insurance fell by 6 percent, dropping to 37,107 from 39,466. Compared to a year earlier, 30,362 fewer individuals received regular state-funded insurance in September (-45 percent).

Also in September, the state paid a (nominal) total of $35 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, an amount 53.8 percent lower than the (nominal) total of $75.8 million paid in September 2013.

“North Carolina netted jobs in September, but even with those gains, the state is not adding jobs at a rapid enough pace to keep pace with the growth in the working-age population,” added Quinterno. “At the same time, a look beyond recent drops in the unemployment rate will reveal a labor market with underlying dynamics inconsistent with those associated with a robust recovery.”

01.10.2014 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

Local Unemployment Rates Down over The Year

CHAPEL HILL, NC (October 1, 2014) – Between August 2013 and August 2014, unemployment rates fell in 96 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in all 14 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Yet over the same period, the size of the local labor force shrank in 84 counties and in 10 metro areas.

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

“Local unemployment rates decreased across most of North Carolina over the past year,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “At the same time, the declines do not alter the fact that unemployment remains a serious problem. In fact, 56 counties and 11 metro areas had unemployment rates in August 2014 that exceeded those posted in August 2008.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 0.3 percent fewer payroll jobs (-14,300). In August, the state gained 12,500 more jobs than it lost (+0.3 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 5,820 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 314,500 positions (+8.2 percent). At that rate, all else equal, it would take until late 2014 for the state to have as many payroll jobs as it did at the end of 2007.

Between July and August 2014, local unemployment rates increased in 74 of the state’s 100 counties, decreased in 12 counties, and held constant in 14 counties. Individual county rates in August ranged from 4 percent in Currituck County to 13.4 percent in Graham County. Overall, 9 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 54 counties posted rates between 7 and 9.9 percent. (Because seasonal fluctuations in labor markets are pronounced in the summer, month-to-month changes provide limited insight into trends.)

“Non-metropolitan labor markets still lag behind metropolitan ones,” noted Quinterno. “In August, 7.7 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 6.7 percent of the metro labor force. Compared to December 2007, the non-metro labor force now has 4.1 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 32 percent larger. Over that time, the size of the non-metro labor force has increased by 6.4 percent. In fact, North Carolina’s total labor force in August would have been 1.2 percent larger if the size of the nonmetropolitan labor force had held steady, all else being equal”

Between July and August, unemployment rates rose in 9 of the state’s 14 metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (10.2 percent), followed by Fayetteville (8.2 percent) and Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (7.5 percent). Asheville had the lowest unemployment rate (5.3 percent), followed by Durham-Chapel Hill and Raleigh-Cary (both 5.7 percent).

Compared to August 2013, unemployment rates in August 2014 were lower in 96 counties and all 14 metro areas. Over the year, however, labor force sizes decreased in 84 counties and in 10 metros. And the statewide labor force (seasonally adjusted) was 0.4 percent smaller (-18,567 individuals) in August 2014 than it was in August 2013.

Among metros, Rocky Mount’s labor force contracted at the fastest rate (-3.6 percent) over the course of the year, followed by Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (-2 percent) and Fayetteville (-1.9 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 72.4 percent of the state’s labor force, with 51.2 percent of the labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

In the long term, improvements in overall labor market conditions depend on growth in the Charlotte, Research Triangle, and Piedmont Triad regions. Yet growth in these metros, though improved in recent months, remains subdued. Collectively, employment in the three metro regions has risen by 5.3 percent since December 2007, and the combined unemployment rate in August totaled 6.5 percent, as compared to 6.3 percent in August 2008. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest unemployment rate (5.8 percent), followed by Charlotte and the Piedmont Triad (both 7 percent).

The local employment report for August also provided insights into the effects of the extensive changes to the state’s system of unemployment insurance implemented last summer. Last month, the number of regular unemployment insurance initial claims filed in North Carolina totaled 20,279, down from the 28,443 initial claims filed a year earlier (-28.7 percent).

Mecklenburg County was home to greatest number of regular initial claims (2,453), followed by Wake (1,695), Guilford (1,107), Cumberland (709), and Forsyth (639) counties.

In August 2014, North Carolinians received a (nominal) total of $34.2 million in regular state-funded and federal unemployment insurance compensation, down from the (nominal) $80.1 million received in August 2013. This decline (-57.3 percent) is attributable to a mix of factors, such as drops in the number of insurance claims resulting from economic improvements and legal changes that restricted eligibility for insurance compensation.

Additionally, the state’s decision to exit the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program reduced the amount of federal unemployment insurance compensation flowing into the state in August. Between August 2013 and August 2014, the amount of federal unemployment insurance benefits paid to North Carolinians fell by 75.6 percent, dropping to a (nominal) total of $1.1 million from a (nominal) total of $4.5 million. (Note that the US Congress allowed the EUC program to expire at the start of 2014.)

“Even with recent improvements in certain important indicators, many local labor markets in North Carolina continue to underperform and have yet to recover from the last recession,” said Quinterno. “The August data were consistent with the basic pattern of slow growth that has defined the state’s economy for the past 4.5 years.”