News Releases

06.04.2012 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

National Job Market Ran In Place In March

CHAPEL HILL (April 6, 2012) – The national employment situation held steady in March, as employers added 120,000 more payroll positions than they eliminated. Moreover, the unemployment rate essentially held constant at 8.2 percent with unemployment rates largely holding steady among major demographic groups. While the labor market has improved recently, unemployment remains high, and overall conditions are far from healthy.

“March marked the 18th 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. “Compared to the developments of recent years, 2012 is off to a good start with the national economy having gained 635,000 more jobs than it has lost. Given the magnitude of the recent recession, however, the economy still is not growing fast enough to drive unemployment down to normal levels.”

In March, the nation’s employers added 120,000 more payroll positions than they cut. Gains occurred entirely in the private sector (+121,000), while government payrolls fell by 1,000 positions due mainly to cuts by local governments. Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for January and February underwent revisions; with the updates, the economy gained 515,000 jobs over those two months, not the 511,000 positions previously reported.

Most major private-sector industry groups netted jobs in March. Leisure and hospitality services netted the most positions (+39,000, due almost entirely to gains in the accommodation and food service sub-sector), followed by education and health services and manufacturing (both +37,000). Meanwhile, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector shed the most positions (-26,000 due mainly to reductions in the retail trade sub-sector), followed by the information (-9,000) and construction sectors (-7,000).

“Over the past three months, the economy has gained an average of approximately 212,000 jobs,” noted Quinterno. “The current pace of job growth is nevertheless modest relative to the size of the overall jobs gap. The American economy still faces a shortfall of almost 10 million jobs—a gap that will take several years to close at the current pace of growth.”

Soft employment conditions were evident in the March 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, as did the share of the population participating in the labor force (63.8 percent) and the share of the adult population with a job (58.5 percent); regardless, all of those indicators remained at depressed levels.

Last month, the unemployment rate was higher among adult male workers than female ones (7.6 percent versus 7.4 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (14 percent) and Hispanic workers (10.3 percent) than among White ones (7.3 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 25 percent. Moreover, 7.5 percent of all veterans were unemployed in March; the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 10.3 percent.

Jobs remained difficult to find in March. Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 14.5 percent. Among unemployed workers, 42.5 percent had been jobless for at least six months with the average spell of unemployment lasting for 39.4 weeks.

“The March employment report shows that the American economy is continuing to add jobs, though not as rapidly as is needed or would be expected following a recession as severe asthe recent one,” observed Quinterno. “The March employment report illustrates both the degree to which conditions have improved from the depths of the recession and just how far from healthy the national labor market remains.”

05.04.2012 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

Local Unemployment Rates Drop In February

CHAPEL HILL (April 5, 2012) – Between February 2011 and February 2012, unemployment rates fell in 81 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in 13 of the state’s 14 metropolitan areas. These findings come from new estimates from the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“Local labor market conditions improved across much of North Carolina over the past year, but unemployment nevertheless remains at elevated levels,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “While unemployment rates dropped in 81 counties and 13 metros over the year, unemployment rates at or above 10 percent remain the norm in 74 counties and 7 metros.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the economy fell into recession, North Carolina has 5.1 percent fewer jobs (-214,300) and has seen its unadjusted unemployment rate climb from 4.7 percent to 10.1 percent. In February, the state gained 8,300 more payroll jobs than it lost. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted an average of roughly 4,700 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 112,000 positions (+2.9 percent).

Between January and February, unemployment rates fell in 84 counties, yet nearly three-quarters of all North Carolina counties posted unemployment rates of at least 10 percent. Individual county rates ranged from 6.3 percent in Orange County to 20.7 percent in Graham County. Compared to the prior month, unemployment rates were lower in 84 counties, higher in 10 counties, and unchanged in 6 counties.

“Non-metropolitan labor markets continue to lag metropolitan ones,” added Quinterno. “In February, 11.6 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 9.6 percent of the metro labor force. Compared to December 2007, the non-metro labor force is now 1.6 percent smaller in size, and 7.9 percent fewer individuals have jobs. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed rural persons has grown by 105.5 percent and now totals 152,630.”

Last month, unemployment rates fell in 13 of the state’s 14 metro areas and held steady in one metro (Jacksonville). Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (13.3 percent), followed by Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (11.8 percent). Durham-Chapel Hill had the lowest rate (7.8 percent), followed by Raleigh-Cary (8.1 percent) and Asheville (8.4 percent).

Compared to February 2011, unemployment rates were lower in 81 counties and 13 metros. Some 59 counties and 13 metros logged increases in the sizes of their local labor forces. Among metros, Asheville’s labor force expanded at the fastest rate (+3.1 percent), followed by Raleigh-Cary (+3 percent) and Durham-Chapel Hill (+2.7 percent). Metro areas now are home to 71.7 percent of the state’s entire labor force with slightly more than half of the entire labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

In the long term, any meaningful recovery will hinge on 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 0.4 percent since December 2007, and the combined February unemployment rate in the three regions equaled 9.2 percent. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest unemployment rate (8.2 percent), followed by the Piedmont Triad (10.1 percent), and Charlotte (10.3 percent).

“Local labor market conditions improved over the course of the year in much of North Carolina, but the modest nature of the improvements offered little comfort to the nearly 500,000 Tar Heels who are unemployed,” said Quinterno. “Unemployment remains a serious problem across much of the state, and little in the February report suggests that conditions will improve markedly anytime soon.”

04.04.2012 News Releases, Our Projects, Policy Points No Comments

The Great Cost Shift

Completed in early 2012 for Demos, a public policy organization in New York City, The Great Cost Shift: How Higher Education Cuts Undermine The Future Middle Classexamines how state disinvestment in public higher education over the past two decades has shifted costs to students and their families. Such disinvestment has occurred alongside rapidly rising enrollments and demographic shifts that are yielding more economically, racially, and ethnically diverse student bodies. As a result students and their families now pay—or borrow—a lot more for a college degree or are getting priced out of an education that has become a requirement for getting a decent job and entering the middle class.

The study traces trends in the size and composition of the young adult population and analyzes patterns in state support for public higher education over the past two decades. Trends in tuition and financial aid are also examined and policy recommendations are presented for ways to renew America’s commitment to nurturing a strong and inclusive middle class through investments in public higher education.

30.03.2012 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

Job Growth Slows, Unemployment Falls in February

CHAPEL HILL (March 30, 2012) – The pace of job growth in North Carolina slowed in February, while the statewide unemployment rate fell below 10 percent for the first time in three years. Yet unemployment remains elevated with the current rate of job growth insufficient to close the job gap anytime soon. These findings come from new data released by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Department of Commerce.

“The rate of job growth slowed in February, rising by 0.2 percent compared to a 0.6 percent rate of growth in January,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Last month, the labor force expanded, the number of employed persons rose, and both the number of unemployed persons and the share of the labor force that was jobless fell. The share of the adult population with a job, though still extremely depressed, also rose to the highest level recorded since August 2009.”

In February, North Carolina employers added 8,300 more payroll jobs than they cut. Net gains occurred largely in the public sector (+5,600), though the private sector netted 2,700 jobs. Within the private sector, leisure and hospitality services added the most jobs in absolute terms (+1,900, driven almost entirely by gains in the accommodation and food services subsector). Professional and business services netted 1,600 positions with the gains concentrated in the professional, scientific, and technical services subsector. Education and health services also gained 1,400 positions. Meanwhile, other services shed the most positions (-1,300), followed by construction (-600) and manufacturing (-300).

A positive revision to the January 2012 labor market data found that the state gained 4,900 more jobs than first reported (+21,900 versus +17,000). North Carolina now has, on net, 214,300 fewer positions (-5.1 percent) payroll jobs than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state has netted an average of roughly 4,700 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 112,000 positions (+2.9 percent).

“Over the past two years, North Carolina has logged some progress in closing the job gap caused by the recent recession with the past six months or so witnessing some welcome improvements,” noted Quinterno. “When compared to December 2007, North Carolina still has fewer payroll jobs in every major private industry sector except for educational and health services and professional and business services. At current rates of growth, a full recovery in the labor market remains elusive.”

The household data for February also point to a weak labor market. Positively, North Carolina experienced an increase in the size of the labor force (+5,287, +0.1 percent, as well as a rise in the number of employed North Carolinians (+16,813, +0.4 percent). The number of unemployed persons fell (-11,526, -2.4 percent), as did the unemployment rate. February also marked the first time since March 2010 that the statewide unemployment rate was below 10 percent.

Joblessness remained widespread in February. There were over twice as many unemployed North Carolinians in February 2012 as there were in December 2007, and the statewide unemployment rate was 4.9 percentage points greater than it was more than four years ago. And, the monthly statewide unemployment rate has exceeded 10 percent in 35 of the last 36 months.

“New data suggest that North Carolina’s labor market has experienced some real improvements over the past few months,” observed Quinterno. “At the same time, conditions remain alarmingly bad by any objective or historical measure. Recent improvements do not alter the facts that a shockingly high share of the labor force remains without work and that the economy is not adding positions quickly enough to accommodate all those who need jobs.”

13.03.2012 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

NC Job Market Grew In January

CHAPEL HILL (March 13, 2012) – North Carolina’s job market began 2012 by gaining 17,000 more payroll jobs than it lost. Moreover, annual revisions to employment statistics concluded that the state netted more jobs in 2011 than first reported. At the same time, 10.2 percent of the labor force was unemployed in January. These findings come from data released today by the Division of Employment Security.

“January’s job report contained some positive news,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “North Carolina netted jobs, grew its labor force, saw more people become employed, and reduced both the number of unemployed individuals and the statewide unemployment rate. Revisions to 2011 data also showed that the labor market performed better than first estimated.”

In January, North Carolina employers added 17,000 more payroll jobs than they cut. Net gains occurred primarily in the private sector (+15,400), though the public sector also added some jobs (+1,600, due mainly to hiring by local governments). Within the private sector, trade, transportation, and utilities added the most jobs in absolute terms (+6,200, driven almost entirely by gains in the retail trade subsector). Professional and business services added 3,900 positions with the gains split nearly evenly between the professional, scientific, and technical and administrative and waste management subsectors. The manufacturing sector netted 3,100 positions due chiefly to hiring in the nondurable goods subsector. Meanwhile, leisure and hospitality services shed the most positions (-1,200, attributable mainly to a decline in the arts, entertainment, and recreation subsector), followed by construction (-1,000).

A positive annual revision to the 2011 employment data found that the state gained 13,700 more jobs over the course of the year than previously reported (+33,300 versus +19,600). When combined with other data revisions to earlier years, North Carolina now has lost, on net, 227,500 positions, or 5.5 percent of its payroll base, since December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state has netted an average of 4,300 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 98,800 positions (+2.6 percent).

“While the jobs situation in North Carolina appears to be somewhat more positive than previously thought, the state’s labor market remains battered and bruised,” noted Quinterno. “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. At current rates of growth, recovery remains a distant destination.”

The household data for January also point to a weak labor market. On the positive side of the ledger, North Carolina experienced an increase in the size of the labor force in January (+6,245, +0.1 percent, as well as a rise in the number of employed North Carolinians (+14,213, +0.3 percent). The number of unemployed persons fell (-7,968, -1.6 percent), as did the unemployment rate. (Note that changes in labor force data for January 2012 may be a function of statistical updates.)

Nevertheless, joblessness remained widespread. There were over twice as many unemployed North Carolinians in January 2012 as there were in December 2007, and the statewide unemployment rate was 5.2 percentage points greater than it was some four years ago. Moreover, the monthly statewide unemployment rate has been at least 10 percent in every month since March 2009.

“New data suggest indicate that North Carolina’s labor market performed somewhat better in 2011 than first thought,” observed Quinterno. “While the job picture appears less bad than previously perceived, that is not the same as saying that the picture looks bright. By any objective measure, North Carolina’s job market remains depressed and continues to make little progress toward undoing the effects of a recession that started four years ago.”