News Releases

22.06.2012 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

Local Unemployment Rates Fall Over The Year

CHAPEL HILL (June 22, 2012) – Between May 2011 and May 2012, unemployment rates fell in 88 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in 13 of the state’s 14 metropolitan areas. Over that same period, labor force sizes contracted in 65 counties and in four metro areas. These findings come from new estimates prepared by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“Local unemployment rates dropped across much of North Carolina over the past year, but unemployment nevertheless remains at distressingly high levels,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “While unemployment rates fell in 88 counties and 13 metros over the year, unemployment rates at or above 10 percent were found in 51 counties and in 2 metros.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the economy fell into recession, North Carolina has 5.7 percent fewer jobs (-237,700) and has seen its unadjusted unemployment rate climb from 4.7 percent to 9.4 percent. In May, the state lost 16,500 more payroll jobs than it gained. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted an average of roughly 3,281 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 88,600 positions (+2.3 percent).

Between April and May, unemployment rates rose in 76 counties, and slightly more than half of all North Carolina counties posted unemployment rates of at least 10 percent. Individual county rates ranged from 5.2 percent in Currituck County to 16.9 percent in Scotland County. Compared to the prior month, unemployment rates were higher in 76 counties, lower in 21 counties, and unchanged in three counties.

“Non-metropolitan labor markets continue to struggle compared to metropolitan ones,” added Quinterno. “In May, 10.5 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 9 percent of the metro labor force. Compared to December 2007, the non-metro labor force is now 1 percent smaller in size, while 6.2 percent fewer individuals are employed. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed rural persons has grown by 87.5 percent and now totals 139,221. Over the year, the non-metro labor force has declined by 1.7 percent, or 22,677 persons.”

Over the month, unemployment rates rose in 13 of the state’s 14 metro areas and fell in one metro (Burlington). Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (12.5 percent), followed by Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (10.9 percent). Durham-Chapel Hill had the lowest rate (7.4 percent), followed by Asheville (7.6 percent) and Raleigh-Cary (7.7 percent).

Compared to May 2011, unemployment rates were lower in 88 counties and 13 metros. Some 65 counties and four metros experienced declines in the sizes of their local labor forces. Among metros, Wilmington’s labor force contracted at the fastest rate (-2.6 percent), followed by Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (-1 percent), Rocky Mount (-0.4 percent), and Charlotte (-0.1 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 71.5 percent of the state’s labor force, with half of the labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

In the long term, any meaningful recovery will hinge on economic and employment growth in the Charlotte, Research Triangle, and Piedmont Triad regions. Yet growth remains weak. Collectively, employment in these three metro regions has risen by just 0.6 percent since December 2007, and the combined May unemployment rate in the three regions equaled 8.8 percent. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest unemployment rate (7.8 percent), followed by the Piedmont Triad (9.5 percent), and Charlotte (9.7 percent).

“Although local unemployment rates fell across much of the state over the past year, local labor markets remain far from healthy,” said Quinterno. “Unemployment rates remain elevated, and sizable numbers of North Carolinians remain jobless. The past year has witnessed noticeable drops in the sizes of local labor forces—drops that suggest that unemployment rates are declining due to people leaving the labor force rather than obtaining jobs.”

15.06.2012 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

State Job Market Weakens In May

CHAPEL HILL (June 15, 2012) – Labor market conditions in North Carolina deteriorated in May, with the state losing 16,500 more jobs than it gained. This marked the third consecutive month of negative job growth in the state. While the statewide unemployment rate remained at the lowest level recorded since early 2009, the steady rate resulted from a contraction in the size of the labor force. These findings come from new data released by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Department of Commerce.

“Key labor force indicators in North Carolina have weakened over the course of 2012,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “The state recorded gains in jobs in January and February, but growth has since turned negative. Over the past three months, the labor market has given back more than three-fourths of the gains logged earlier in the year.”

In May, North Carolina employers cut 16,500 more jobs than they added (- 0.4 percent). This was the largest monthly decline in absolute terms since June 2009. Last month, private-sector payrolls fell by 15,800 positions (-0.5 percent), and public-sector employment levels dipped by 700 positions (-0.1 percent). Within the private sector, professional and business services shed the most jobs (-7,000, -1.3 percent) due to sizable payroll reductions in the administrative and waste management subsector. The construction industry lost 4,800 jobs (-2.8 percent), followed by leisure and hospitality services (-3,600, -0.9 percent) and education and health services (-2,600, -0.5 percent). The trade, transportation, and utilities sector gained the most jobs (+1,900, +0.3 percent), followed by manufacturing, which netted 400 jobs (+0.1 percent).

A negative revision to the April payroll data found that the state lost 2,600 more jobs than first reported (-3,900 versus -1,300). With that revision, North Carolina now has, on net, 237,700 fewer payroll positions (-5.7 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state has netted an average of 3,281 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 88,600 positions (+2.3 percent).

“Over the past few years, North Carolina had succeeded in closing some of the job gap caused by the recent recession,” noted Quinterno. “Over the past three months, however, the state’s labor market has given back a portion of those modest gains. Compared to December 2007, North Carolina has fewer payroll jobs in every major private industry sector except for educational and health services and professional and business services.”

The household data for May also point to a stagnant labor market. While the unemployment rate held constant at 9.4 percent, the steady rate was tied to a contraction in the size of the labor force. Over the month, the size of the labor force fell by 9,478 individuals (-0.2), driven by drops in both the numbers of employed persons (-5,803, -0.1 percent) and unemployed persons (-3,675, -0.8 percent) in the state.

While the unemployment rate of 9.4 percent is the lowest one recorded in the state since early 2009, unemployment remains widespread across North Carolina. Not only is the statewide unemployment rate 4.4 percentage points greater than it was almost 4.5 years ago, but the number of unemployed Tar Heels also is 90.6 percent higher.

To place the scale of unemployment in context, consider how the number of unemployed North Carolinians in May (435,908) exceeded the total population of the City of Raleigh, which was the state’s second most populous municipality in 2010. Furthermore, the number of people added to the unemployment rolls since 2007 (+207,188) is roughly equivalent to the population of the City of Fayetteville, which was the state’s sixth most populous city in 2010.

Other troubling labor market indicators include a statewide unemployment rate that has exceeded 10 percent in 35 of the last 41 months and the fact that the labor force participation rate has fallen steadily since January. Similarly, the share of the adult population with a job remains at a depressed level.

“North Carolina’s job market began 2012 on a positive note yet has been unable to maintain that momentum,” observed Quinterno. “The state has experienced negative net job growth for the past three months and has given back the bulk of the gains recorded earlier in the year. As has been the case for the past several years, the jobs data call out for policymakers to change course and pay considerably more attention to the ongoing, slow-moving crisis in the labor market.”

01.06.2012 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

National Labor Market Goes Nowhere In May

CHAPEL HILL (June 1, 2012) – The national labor market experienced few changes in May, as employers added just 69,000 more payroll positions than they eliminated. Furthermore, the unemployment rate essentially held steady at 8.2 percent. Although the national labor market started 2012 on a positive note, growth has slowed over the course of the year.

“May marked the 20th consecutive month of job growth in the United States,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Over the past three months, the economy has netted an average of 96,300 jobs per month, a pace that, while positive, is well below the average pace of job growth recorded during the prior three-month period. The current rate of growth simply is insufficient to drive unemployment down to normal levels anytime soon.”

In May, the nation’s employers added 69,000 more payroll positions than they cut. Gains occurred entirely in the private sector (+82,000), while government payrolls fell by 13,000 positions. Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for March and April underwent negative revisions; with the updates, the economy gained 220,000 jobs over those two months, not the 269,000 positions previously reported.

Payroll levels in most major private-sector industry groups grew or held steady in May. Trade, transportation, and utilities netted the most positions (+54,000, with 65.9 percent of the growth occurring in the transportation and warehousing subsector), followed by education and health services (+46,000, with the health care subsector responsible for 71.3 percent of the net gain). Meanwhile, construction shed the most positions (-28,000 positions, with specialty trade contractors accounting for 63.2 percent of the losses.)

“The American economy has added jobs steadily for almost two years and has netted 823,000 positions so far in 2012,” noted Quinterno. “The current average rate of job growth—164,600 positions per month—nevertheless is insufficient to close the large jobs gap facing the United States.”

Weak employment conditions were evident in the May household survey. Last month, 12.7 million Americans (8.2 percent of the labor force) were jobless and seeking work. The number of unemployed Americans and the unemployment rate basically held steady last month. Meanwhile, the size of the labor force increased by 642,000 persons, and the share of the population participating in the labor force rose to 63.8 percent. Yet despite a modest increase (to 58.6 percent), the share of the adult population with a job remained at a depressed level.

Last month, the unemployment rate was higher among adult male workers than female ones (7.8 percent versus 7.4 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (13.6 percent) and Hispanic workers (11 percent) than among White ones (7.4 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 24.6 percent. Moreover, 7.8 percent of all veterans were unemployed; the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 12.7 percent.

Jobs remained scarce in May. Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 14.8 percent. Among unemployed workers, 42.8 percent had been jobless for at least six months with the average spell of unemployment lasting for 39.7 weeks. The leading cause of unemployment remained a job loss or the completion of a temporary job, which was the reason cited by 55 percent of unemployed persons in May.

“While the American economy continued to add jobs in May, the labor market is not growing as rapidly as occurred earlier in the year,” observed Quinterno. “Whether this slowing is the product of softening economic conditions or mild winter weather that pulled hiring forward is a topic for analysis. The bottom line remains that American workers are attempting to navigate a labor market that is not adding jobs in the numbers needed to accommodate all those who want and need work.”

18.05.2012 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

No “Springing Forward” For NC’s Labor Market

CHAPEL HILL (May 18, 2012) – The change in seasons was not accompanied by improvements in North Carolina’s labor market. Payroll employment levels essentially were flat in April and were only slightly higher than was the case a year ago. While the unemployment rate fell to the lowest level recorded since early 2009, the drop stemmed from a decline in the size of the state’s labor force, not an increase in employment. These findings come from new data released by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Department of Commerce.

“Job growth in North Carolina has slowed steadily over the course of 2012,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Compared to last December, North Carolina has 25,900 more jobs, but 85 percent of that gain occurred in January. Over the last two months, North Carolina has essentially netted no new jobs.”

In April, North Carolina employers cut 1,300 more payroll jobs than they added (+/- 0 percent). Private sector payroll levels essentially held steady, (-1,200, +/- 0 percent), as was the case in the public sector (-100, +/- 0 percent). Within the private sector, manufacturing shed the most jobs, (-2,900, -0.7 percent), followed by information (-1,100, -1.6 percent) and other services (-900, -0.6 percent). Professional and business services netted the most jobs (+3,600, +0.7 percent), due mainly to hiring in the administrative and waste management subsector.

A positive revision to the March payroll data found that the state lost 500 fewer jobs than first reported (-800 versus -1,300). With that revision, North Carolina now has, on net, 218,600 fewer payroll positions (-5.2 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state has netted an average of 4,142 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 107,700 positions (+2.8 percent).

“Over the past few years, North Carolina has managed to close some of the job gap caused by the recent recession,” noted Quinterno. “Since last July, the job gap has fallen by a full percentage point, yet compared to December 2007, North Carolina has fewer payroll jobs in every major private industry sector except for educational and health services and professional and business services. The improvements that have occurred have occurred very slowly.”

The household data for April also point to a labor market characterized by widespread joblessness. Last month saw a small increase in the number of employed individuals (+1,471, <0.1 percent) and a decline in the number of unemployed persons (-12,686, -2.8 percent). Yet the size of the labor force decreased by 11,215 individuals (-0.2 percent). It was this decline rather than an increase in employment that pushed the statewide unemployment rate down to 9.4 percent, the lowest level recorded in over three years.

To place the scale of unemployment in context, consider how there were almost twice as many unemployed North Carolinians in April 2012 as there were in December 2007. The statewide unemployment rate also was 4.4 percentage points greater than it was over four years ago. In fact, the monthly statewide unemployment rate has exceeded 10 percent in 35 of the last 40 months. Moreover, the share of the adult population with a job remains at a depressed level.

“While North Carolina’s job market began 2012 moving in a positive direction, it has failed to maintain that momentum,” observed Quinterno. “The state has experienced virtually no net job growth over the last two months. While the unemployment rate has fallen by half a percentage point since February, the decline is due largely to people leaving the labor force. Recovery remains a distant goal for jobless North Carolinians—a goal that still is being measured in terms of years.”

04.05.2012 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

National Labor Market Cools In April

CHAPEL HILL (May 4, 2012) – The national labor market cooled in April, as employers added just 115,000 more payroll positions than they eliminated. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, essentially held steady at 8.1 percent with unemployment rates among major demographic groups largely remaining unchanged. While the national labor market started 2012 on a positive note, growth has slowed over the course of the year.

“April marked the 19th consecutive month of job growth in the United States,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Over the past four months, the economy has netted an average of 132,000 jobs per month, a pace that, while positive, is simply not enough to drive unemployment down to normal levels anytime soon.”

In April, the nation’s employers added 115,000 more payroll positions than they cut. Gains occurred entirely in the private sector (+130,000), while government payrolls fell by 15,000 positions due primarily to cuts by local governments. Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for February and March underwent revisions; with the updates, the economy gained 413,000 jobs over those two months, not the 360,000 positions previously reported.

Employment levels in most major private-sector industry groups grew or held essentially steady in April. Professional and business services netted the most positions (+62,000, with 52.1 percent of the growth occurring in the administrative and waste services subsector), followed by education and health services (+23,000, with the health care subsector responsible for 82.6 percent of the net gain), and trade, transportation, and utilities (+22,000, due overwhelmingly to gains in the retail trade subsector). Meanwhile, the construction, information, and other services sectors shed the most positions (all -2,000).

“The American economy has added jobs steadily for a little more than 1.5 years and has netted 528,000 positions so far in 2012,” noted Quinterno. “The current pace of job growth is nevertheless modest relative to the size of the overall jobs gap, and, alarmingly, growth has slowed over the course of the year. A return to normal labor market conditions remains a distant goal, absent more attention and support from policymakers.”

Weak employment conditions were evident in the April household survey. Last month, 12.5 million Americans (8.1 percent of the labor force) were jobless and seeking work. The number of unemployed Americans and the unemployment rate basically held steady last month, while the size of the labor force fell (-342,000), as did the share of the population participating in the labor force (to 63.6 percent). Moreover, the share of the adult population with a job (58.4 percent) remained at a depressed level.

Last month, the unemployment rate was higher among adult male workers than female ones (7.5 percent versus 7.4 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (13 percent) and Hispanic workers (10.3 percent) than among White ones (7.4 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 24.9 percent. Moreover, 7.1 percent of all veterans were unemployed; the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 9.2 percent.

Jobs remained difficult to find in April. Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 14.5 percent. Among unemployed workers, 41.3 percent had been jobless for at least six months with the average spell of unemployment lasting for 39.1 weeks.

“The April employment report shows that the American economy is continuing to add jobs, though not as rapidly as is needed or was the case earlier in the year,” observed Quinterno. “The April employment report illustrates both how far the national labor market has come since the depths of the recession and just how far it still must go before reaching healthy levels of economic activity.”