News Releases

22.04.2015 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

North Carolina’s Incomeless Recovery

RALEIGH, NC (April 22, 2015) – A new report released today finds that the income of the typical North Carolina household fell not just during the “Great Recession,” but has continued to fall during the recovery, leaving the proclamations of a “Carolina Comeback” far short of the mark. The report was written by John Quinterno of South by North Strategies, Ltd. on behalf of Think NC First.Among the report’s key findings are the following:

  • From 2007 to 2013, the inflation-adjusted income of the median North Carolina household dropped by more than 8%. Median income fell by 5.5% from 2007 to 2009 and by another 3.2% during the recovery that started in 2009 through 2013.
  • From 2009 to 2013, real average household income fell or remained unchanged for every household income group in North Carolina except for the top 5%.
  • The distribution of household income in North Carolina has grown more unequal since 2007, and the distribution of income in North Carolina in 2013 was more unequal than in the nation as a whole.
  • The annual earnings of the median worker (ages 16+) fell by 7.4% between 2007 and 2013.
  • Median annual earnings have fallen regardless of a worker’s level of education (ages 25+). Even typical workers with bachelor’s degrees or postgraduate degrees saw their earnings drop from 2007 to 2013.
  • Real median household income in North Carolina was effectively no different in 2013 than in 1984.
“Since peaking in early 2010, North Carolina’s unemployment rate has fallen sharply, a development that has led many civic leaders and pundits to herald a ‘Carolina Comeback.’ That claim, while alliterative, glosses over the deep problems that still trouble the state’s labor market and ignores the erosion in household income levels and living standards that have occurred since the last recession,” writes John Quinterno. “Judged against the criteria of broadly rising incomes and living standards, North Carolina’s comeback is far short of the mark.”

Click here to access the full report.For questions about the report, interviews and other media requests please contact John Quinterno at johnq@sbnstrategies.com or (919) 622-2392.

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Think North Carolina First (Think) is a policy and message development think tank that serves as a reliable source of evidence-based research for policy makers and thought leaders. It is Think’s mission to produce pragmatic ideas and research accessible to the average North Carolinian that can be used to formulate, debate and implement public policy.

South by North Strategies, Ltd. is a research and communications firm specializing in economic and social policy. It provides applied policy research for organizations seeking to understand and address economic and social issues. The firm is based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
21.04.2015 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

Statewide Labor Market Improves Year-Over-Year

CHAPEL HILL, NC (April 21, 2015) – In March, employers in North Carolina cut 2,600 more jobs than they added, with net reductions occurring in the private and public sectors. Over the year, however, North Carolina gained 113,700 more jobs than it lost, due entirely to gains in the private sector. Although the statewide unemployment rate rose to 5.4 percent in March, the rate still was a full percentage point lower than had been the case a year earlier.

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

“The first quarter of 2015 proved to be a relatively uneventful one for job growth in North Carolina,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “So far this year, the state has gained 16,500 more payroll jobs than it has lost. For comparison, the corresponding number in 2014 was a gain of 13,000 jobs. Yet even with the gains, however, North Carolina has just 51,600 more jobs, or 1.2 percent more jobs, than it did over seven years earlier.”

Between February 2015 and March 2015, North Carolina employers cut 2,600 more jobs than they added (-0.1 percent). Private-sector payrolls lost, on net, 1,500 positions (-0.1 percent), and public-sector payrolls lost, on net, 1,100 jobs (-0.2 percent). Within private industry, the construction sector shed the most jobs (-2,400, -1.3 percent), while the professional and business services sector netted the most jobs (+2,700, +0.5 percent, with 55.6 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste management services subsector). Overall, payroll levels fell in six major private industrial sectors, rose in three, and were unchanged in one.

A revision to the February payroll data found that the state gained more jobs than first reported (+17,500 jobs versus an original estimate of +16,800 jobs). With that revision, North Carolina now has, on net, 51,600 more payroll positions (+1.2 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted an average of 6,200 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 378,400 positions (+9.9 percent).

Over the year, North Carolina employers added 113,700 more jobs than they cut (+2.8 percent). Private-sector payrolls gained, on net, 117,300 positions (+3.5 percent), while public-sector payrolls lost, on net, 3,600 jobs (-0.5 percent). Within private industry, virtually every major industrial sector netted payroll jobs, with the professional and business services sector gaining the most positions (+32,900, +5.9 percent, with 64 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste management services subsector).

“The steady payroll growth experienced over the past year remains insufficient to close the job gap that exists in North Carolina,” noted Quinterno. “The fact that North Carolina now has slightly more jobs than it did when the recession started should not be taken to mean that the state’s labor market has recovered fully.”

According to the monthly household data, the statewide unemployment rate rose in March to 5.4 percent, which remains close to the lowest rate logged since early 2008. Last month’s rise in the unemployment rate was attributable in large part to an increase in the size of the labor force (+31,938 persons, +0.7 percent). Over the month, the number of employed North Carolinians increased by 26,012 persons (+0.6 percent), and the number of unemployed persons rose by 5,926 individuals (+2.4 percent).

Over the past year, the statewide unemployment rate fell by a full percentage point, dropping to 5.4 percent from 6.4 percent, with the number of unemployed North Carolinians decreasing by 44,460 persons (-14.9 percent). During that same period, the number of employed persons rose by 118,628 individuals (+2.7 percent), while the size of the labor force increased by 74,168 persons (+1.6 percent). This suggests that the labor market managed to accommodate new members of the labor force and move unemployed persons into jobs.

Other improvements recorded over the course of the year include a rise in the share of working-age North Carolinians participating in the labor market (to 60.7 percent from 60.5 percent) and the share of working-age North Carolinians who are employed (to 57.5 percent from 56.6 percent). Nevertheless, both of these measures remain near the lowest monthly rates recorded at any time since January 1976.

Between March 2014 and March 2015, the number of claimants of regular state-funded insurance fell by 36.7 percent, dropping to 33,359 from 52,666. Also in March 2015, the state paid a (nominal) total of $29.5 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, an amount 40.3 percent lower than the (nominal) total of $49.4 million paid in March 2014.

“North Carolina’s labor market recorded a number of positive improvements over the past year, but those gains must not be taken as signs that the labor market has mended itself,” said Quinterno. “Over five years into a recovery, North Carolina still faces a sizable jobs gap largely because the labor market simply is not generating enough jobs, fast enough to accommodate all those who want and need work.”

17.03.2015 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

A Slow Start For North Carolina’s Job Market

CHAPEL HILL, NC (March 17, 2015) – In January, employers in North Carolina added no more payroll positions than they cut, as a small gain in private-sectors payrolls was offset entirely by a small drop in public-sector payrolls. The monthly household survey, meanwhile, recorded no major changes in the total number of unemployed North Carolinians or in the statewide unemployment rate, which held steady at 5.4 percent.

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

“The first month of 2015 was a relatively uneventful one for North Carolina’s labor market,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “During the course of 2014, North Carolina gained 98,900 more jobs than it lost, but even with those gains, the state ended the year with just 35,100 more payroll jobs, for a total of 0.8 percent more jobs, than it had seven years earlier.”

Between December 2014 and January 2015, North Carolina employers added no more payroll jobs than they cut. Private-sector payrolls added, on net, 2,000 positions (+0.1 percent), but public-sector payrolls lost, on net, 2,000 jobs (-0.3 percent). Within private industry, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector shed the most jobs (-11,700, -1.5 percent), while the leisure and hospitality sector netted the most jobs (+5,200, +1.2 percent). Payroll levels in most every other major industrial sector either rose or held steady between December and January.

A revision to the December payroll data found that the state lost rather than gained jobs that (-500 jobs versus an original estimate of +15,100 jobs). With that revision, North Carolina now has, on net, just 35,100 more payroll positions (+0.8 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted an average of 6,168 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 363,900 positions (+9.5 percent).

“Revisions to the 2014 data reveal that North Carolina netted fewer jobs over the course of the year than first reported,” noted Quinterno. “Initial estimates suggested that the number of payroll jobs in the state expanded by 2.8 percent, or 114,500 positions, over the course of the year. After revisions, however, the state netted 98,900 jobs, for a gain of 2.4 percent. That growth rate was slightly greater than the one of 2.1 percent logged in 2013.”

“The fact that North Carolina now has slightly more payroll jobs than it did seven years ago does not mean that the state’s labor market has recovered,” cautioned Quinterno. “Over that time, North Carolina needed to replace the jobs lost during the recession and add jobs to keep pace with the growth of the working-age population. Depending on the assumptions used, North Carolina is anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 payroll jobs short of the number of jobs it should have added since late 2007 to keep pace with population growth.”

The household data recorded in January also pointed to few changes in the statewide labor market. Last month, the statewide unemployment rate held steady at 5.4 percent, which was the lowest rate recorded since early 2008. Over the course of 2014, the unemployment rate fell by 1.3 percentage points, while the number of unemployed persons decreased by 62,060, or 19.9 percent. Over that same period, the number of employed persons rose by 46,906 (+1.1 percent), while the size of the labor force fell by 15,154 persons (-0.3 percent). As an aside, the size of North Carolina’s labor force has held steady at between 4.6 and 4.7 million persons since early 2010.

Over the course of 2014, some 24.4 percent of the decline in the number of unemployed North Carolinians was attributable mathematically to people who left the labor force entirely rather than to those who became employed. If those 15,154 leavers from the labor force were added back and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate in December would have equaled 5.7 percent, Even if half of those individuals were added back to the labor force and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate would have equaled 5.6 percent.

Year-over-year declines in the statewide labor force participation rate provide additional evidence of a labor market with problematic underlying dynamics. In December, the share of working-age North Carolinians participating in the labor market was 59.8 percent, which was lower than the 60.7 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 56.6 percent from 56.7 percent. The current share of working-age North Carolinians with a job now is just slightly above the lowest rate logged at any point since 1976 (56.3 percent).

Labor market data for 2014 provide additional insight into the effects of the extensive changes to the state’s system of unemployment insurance implemented in July 2013. During 2014, the year, the number of claimants of regular state-funded insurance fell by 47.8 percent, dropping to 31,806 from 60,889. Also in December, the state paid a (nominal) total of $27.6 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, an amount 53.3 percent lower than the (nominal) total of $59.1 million paid in December 2013.

“North Carolina netted jobs in 2014 at a rate faster than those posted in recent years, but even with those gains, the state’s labor market is in no way, shape, or form recovered from the last recession,” explained Quinterno. “North Carolina ended 2014 with just 0.8 percent more jobs than it had seven years earlier, and the state had 9.5 percent more unemployed residents and an unemployment rate that was 0.4 percentage points higher. And a smaller share of the working-age population was participating in the labor force than at any point in almost 40 years.”

“North Carolina’s labor market started 2015 the same way it ended 2014: mired in a painfully slow recovery that simply is not generating enough jobs, fast enough to accommodate all those who want and need work,” said Quinterno. “In many ways, the state’s labor market began 2014 stuck in the same low gear where it has spent most of the past five years.”

06.02.2015 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

US Labor Market Improved In January

CHAPEL HILL, NC (February 6, 2015) – In January, the national labor market added 257,000 more jobs than it lost due entirely to gains in the private sector. After accounting for annual statistical updates, the unemployment rate (5.7 percent) and the number of unemployed persons (9 million) basically were unchanged in January from the prior month.

“January was the 52nd-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 267,000 jobs per month, a pace that has mitigated but has not undone the damage inflicted to the labor market by the last recession.”

In January, the nation’s employers added 257,000 more payroll jobs than they cut. All of the gain originated in the private sector (+267,000), while public employers cut 10,000 more positions than they added. Within the private sector, payroll levels increased the most in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+51,000, with 90 percent of the gain occurring in the retail trade subsector), followed by the education and health services (+46,000) and the construction and professional business services sectors (both +39,000). Payroll levels in all other major industry groups rose in January or essentially held steady.

Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for November and December underwent revisions; with the updates, the economy netted 752,000 jobs over those two months, not the 605,000 positions previously reported. With those changes, the average pace of monthly job growth in the United States recorded over the past year rose to 267,000.

“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 anytime soon.

After accounting for annual statistical updates, labor market conditions as measured by the household survey improved in January. In January, the number of Americans who were employed increased by 435,000 persons. At the same time, the overall size of the labor force rose by 703,000 persons. Meanwhile, the share of working-age Americans participating in the labor force rose in January (62.9 percent), while the share of working-age Americans with a job was unchanged (59.3 percent).

In January, 9 million Americans were unemployed (5.7 percent). Another 6.8 million individuals worked part time despite preferring full-time positions. An additional 682,000 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 2.2 million Americans who were marginally attached to the labor force.

Last month, the unemployment rate was higher for adult male workers than adult female workers (5.3 percent versus 5.1 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (10.3 percent) and Hispanic workers (6.7 percent) than among white ones (4.9 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 18.8 percent.

Additionally, 5.3 percent of all veterans were unemployed, and the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 7.9 percent. At the same time, 11.9 percent of Americans with disabilities were jobless and seeking work. (Both not seasonally adjusted.)

Jobs remained comparatively hard to find in January. Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 11.3 percent. Among unemployed workers, 31.5 percent had been jobless for at least six months, and the average spell of unemployment equaled 32.3 weeks.

In January, the leading cause of unemployment remained a job loss or the completion of a temporary job, which was the reason cited by 47.4 percent of unemployed persons. Another 31.6 percent of unemployed persons were re-entrants to the labor market, while 11.5 percent were new entrants. Voluntary job leavers accounted for the remaining 9.5 percent of the total.

“The January employment report contained a number of positive developments, although annual technical updates to the various data series complicate the process of drawing meaningful conclusions,” observed Quinterno. “Labor market conditions nevertheless remain sub-optimal, with the problems of underemployment and long-term unemployment remaining particularly pronounced. Weak conditions, in turn, are preventing American workers from experiencing robust improvements in their wages and living standards.”

04.02.2015 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

Local Unemployment Rates Fell In 2014

CHAPEL HILL, NC (February 4, 2015) – Over the course of 2014, unemployment rates fell in 99 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in all 14 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Yet at the same time, the size of the local labor force shrank in 90 counties and in 12 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 declined across all of North Carolina over the course of 2014,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “While noteworthy, the declines in local unemployment rates do not alter the fact that many local labor markets continue to underperform when measured in relation to a broader set of important indicators.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 1.2 percent more payroll jobs (+50,700). In December 2014, the state gained 15,100 more jobs than it lost (+0.4 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 6,500 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 379,500 payroll jobs (+9.9 percent).

Between November and December of 2014, local unemployment rates decreased in 56 of the state’s 100 counties, increased in 28 counties, and held constant in 16 counties. Individual county rates in December ranged from 3.8 percent in Chatham County to 12.3 percent in Graham County. Overall, 2 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 39 counties posted rates between 6 and 9.9 percent.

“Non-metropolitan labor markets continue to lag behind metropolitan ones,” noted Quinterno. “In December, 6 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 5 percent of the metro labor force. Compared to December 2007, the non-metro labor force now has 7.3 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 1 percent smaller. Over that time, the size of the non-metro labor force has fallen by 6.9 percent. In fact, North Carolina’s total labor force in December would have been 2 percent larger if the size of the non-metropolitan labor force had held steady at its pre-recession level, all else being equal.”

Between November and December, unemployment rates fell in 11 of the state’s 14 metro areas and held steady in three metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (7.7 percent), followed by Fayetteville (6.1 percent) and Goldsboro (5.7 percent). Asheville had the lowest unemployment rate (4 percent), followed by Raleigh-Cary (4.2 percent), Durham-Chapel Hill (4.3 percent), and Winston-Salem (4.8 percent).

Compared to December 2013, unemployment rates in December 2014 were lower in 99 counties and in all 14 metro areas. Over the year, however, labor force sizes decreased in 90 counties and in 12 metros. And the statewide labor force (seasonally adjusted) was 0.9 percent smaller (-42,245 individuals) in December 2014 than it was in December 2013.

Among metros, Rocky Mount’s labor force contracted at the fastest rate (-4.2 percent) over the course of the year, followed by Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (-2.8 percent) and Fayetteville (-2.7 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 72.6 percent of the state’s labor force, with 51.5 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 5.8 percent since December 2007, and the combined unemployment rate in December totaled 4.7 percent, as compared to 4.5 percent in December 2007. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest unemployment rate (4.3 percent), followed by the Piedmont Triad (5.1 percent) and Charlotte (5.3 percent).

The local employment report for December 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 26,767, down from the 33,157 initial claims filed a year earlier (-19.3 percent).

Mecklenburg County was home to greatest number of regular initial claims (2,569), followed by Wake (1,688), Guilford (1,466), Cumberland (917), and Forsyth (840) counties.

In December 2014, North Carolinians received a (nominal) total of $28.5 million in regular state-funded and federal unemployment insurance compensation, down from the (nominal) $62.2 million received in December 2013. This decline (-54.2 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 unemployment insurance compensation.

“Many labor markets across North Carolina, particularly some of the largest metropolitan ones, have experienced improvements over the past year,” said Quinterno. “While those improvements are important, they must not obscure the fact that many local labor markets—non-metropolitan ones especially—continue to underperform and have not yet recovered from the last recession.”