News Releases

01.04.2011 News Releases, Policy Points Comments Off on A Bit Of Labor Market Momentum

A Bit Of Labor Market Momentum

CHAPEL HILL (April 1, 2011) – The national economy netted 216,000 payroll positions in March. This marked the sixth consecutive month of job growth. While strong by recent standards, the March level of payroll growth failed to alter the basic employment picture. In fact, the unemployment rate and associated measures of joblessness and labor utilization changed little last month. These findings come from the latest national employment report.

“Net job growth of 216,000 positions in March represents a real step forward,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Over the past two months, payroll employment has increased at a level not seen in several years. Moreover, the growth is insufficient to undo the damage caused by the 2007-09 recession.”

In March, the nation’s employers added 216,000 more payroll positions than they cut. Gains occurred entirely within the private sector (+230,000), while government payrolls fell by 14,000 positions due to payroll reductions by local governments. In recent months, payroll cuts by local governments have held back job growth. Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for January and February were revised upwards. With the revisions, the economy netted 262,000 jobs over those two months rather than the 255,000 positions previously reported.

Private-sector gains in March occurred primarily in professional and business services (+78,000), education and health services (+45,000), leisure and hospitality services (+37,000), and retail trade (+17,700). With the exception of the construction and information industries, all other private-sector industries grew in March.

“The March employment report suggests that a level of job growth has taken hold in the United States,” noted Quinterno. “Over the past two months, net job growth has averaged 205,000 positions, but the pace is insufficient to replace the jobs lost during the recession.”

The inability of the current pace of job growth to alter employment conditions was reflected in the March household survey. Last month, 13.5 million Americans (8.8 percent of the labor force) were jobless and seeking work. While the unemployment rate and number of unemployed individuals fell over the past year, so did the size of the labor force. In March, the share of the population participating in the labor force (64.2 percent) was not only lower than one year ago, but also was at a level last seen in the early 1980s.

Last month, proportionally more adult male workers were unemployed than female ones (8.6 percent vs. 7.7 percent). Similarly, unemployment rates were higher among Black (15.5 percent) and Hispanic workers (11.3 percent) than among White ones (7.9 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 24.5 percent. Between February and March, unemployment rates for most every major demographic group were little changed.

Furthermore, nine percent of all veterans were unemployed in March. The unemployment rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 10.9 percent.

“Despite the growth in payroll employment, jobs remained difficult to find in March,” added Quinterno. “Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 15.7 percent. Among unemployed workers, 45.5 percent had been jobless for at least six months with the average spell of unemployment lasting for 39 weeks.”

“The March employment report suggests that labor market conditions have stabilized and that the private sector is adding jobs, although some of that growth is being canceled out by job losses in the public sector,” observed Quinterno. “Unfortunately, the recent improved level of growth simply is not good enough to reverse the damage caused by the recession. If the March rate of job growth were maintained, holding all else equal, it still would take several years to replace the more than seven million jobs lost since December 2007.”

25.03.2011 News Releases, Policy Points Comments Off on Short Month Sees Solid Job Growth

Short Month Sees Solid Job Growth

CHAPEL HILL (March 25, 2011) – In February, North Carolina’s employers added 17,400 more payroll positions than they eliminated, according to data released today by the Employment Security Commission. This monthly gain was the single-largest one recorded since the state’s labor market bottomed out in late 2009. Nevertheless, joblessness remains a serious problem in North Carolina. Over the past year, total payroll employment in the state rose by just 0.8 percent—a pace that will not close the large jobs gap anytime soon.

“Solid job growth in February was a nice change from the unimpressive numbers recorded in recent months,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “February was the best month of job growth since the state’s labor market bottomed out in December 2009. While positive growth is good news, the pace of growth remains insufficient to close the jobs gap anytime soon.”

Last month, North Carolina employers added 17,400 more payroll positions than they cut. Net gains in the private sector (+20,400) were offset by net losses in the public sector (-3,000). Among private industries, professional and business services netted the most positions (+6,800), followed by construction (+4,500), and education and health services (+4,100). The gains were offset by drops in trade, transportation, and utilities (-1,600) and financial activities (-700).

Additionally, a revision to the January data found that the state gained 500 more payroll positions that first thought (+5,000 versus original estimate of +4,500). With that revision, North Carolina has lost, on net, 292,500 positions—seven percent of its payroll employment base—since December 2007.

“One solid jobs report does not a recovery make,” noted Quinterno. “The question is whether the February report was a one-off or the start of a trend. Yet even if the rate of job growth continues at the pace of the past year, the goal of a full recovery remains far in the distance.”

Between February 2010 and February 2011, North Carolina netted 30,500 jobs (0.8 percent). All of the growth (+41,700 positions) occurred in the private sector, while the public sector shed 11,200 positions. In terms of individual industries, professional and business services grew the most in absolute and relative terms (+22,700, +4.8 percent). Construction shed the most jobs in absolute and relative terms (-6,400, -3.6 percent). In the public sector, net job loss resulted almost entirely from reductions at the state (-4,100, -2.1 percent) and local (-7,900, -1.8 percent) levels.

The household data for February, meanwhile, were mixed. Last month, the total number of employed individuals increased slightly (+0.1 percent), while the number of unemployed individuals dropped by 4,275 (-1 percent). Over the past year, the number of unemployed North Carolinians fell by 84,742 (-16.3 percent). Unfortunately, much of this decline was attributable to individuals exiting the labor force. Between February 2010 and February 2011, the size of the labor force contracted by 91,962 individuals (-2 percent).

The February unemployment rate of 9.7 percent was down from the January rate of 9.8 percent. It also was the lowest monthly rate recorded since January 2009, when 9.2 percent of the labor force was unemployed. Over the past year, the unemployment rate fell sharply, dropping to 9.7 percent from 11.4 percent.

“While welcome, the positive job growth recorded over the past year has done little to close the state’s job gap or reduce unemployment to acceptable levels,” observed Quinterno. “The contraction in the size of the labor force remains a real concern. Compared to a year ago, smaller shares of the working-age population are either participating in the labor force or have jobs.

“The positive job growth recorded in February should not obscure the fact that North Carolina’s labor market remains in critical condition,” added Quinterno. “At the current rate of job growth, it will take years to replace the positions lost during the recession, to say nothing of accommodating the state’s growing working-age population. North Carolina still has a long way to go.”

18.03.2011 News Releases, Policy Points Comments Off on Few Changes Along The Local Jobs Front

Few Changes Along The Local Jobs Front

CHAPEL HILL (March 18, 2011) – Eighty-six of North Carolina’s 100 counties and 12 of the state’s 14 metro areas had labor forces in January 2011 that were smaller in size than they were one year before. Moreover, 77 counties and 8 metros posted double-digit unemployment rates in January. These findings come from estimates released today by the Employment Security Commission.

“January delivered little in the way of meaningful job growth in communities across North Carolina,” says John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Job growth was meager, and the lack of growth continued to push unemployed individuals out of the labor market.”

Since the economy fell into recession in December 2007, North Carolina has shed 7.4 percent of its payroll employment base (-310,400 positions) and has seen its unadjusted unemployment rate climb from 4.7 percent to the current level of 10.5 percent. In January, the state gained 4,500 more payroll jobs than it lost.

Every region of the state experienced weak labor markets in January. Unemployment rates were at or above 10 percent in 77 counties; over the past year, however, there was a drop in the number of counties posting double-digit unemployment rates. Individual county rates in January ranged from 6.5 percent in Orange County to 19.4 percent in Graham County.

“Labor markets in non-metropolitan communities remain especially weak,” adds Quinterno. “Last month, 11.7 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 9.9 percent of the metro labor force. More alarmingly, the non-metropolitan labor force continued to shrink. Since December 2007, the non-metropolitan labor force has declined by 4.4 percent or 59,016 individuals. Many of those missing persons are effectively jobless.”

Last month, unemployment rates rose in all 14 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (13.1 percent), followed by the Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir area (12.8 percent). Durham-Chapel Hill had the lowest rate (7.6 percent).

Because of the lack of seasonal adjustments, monthly fluctuations in local unemployment rates must be interpreted cautiously. This caveat is particularly important in January, when a variety of seasonal factors normally manifest themselves. The proper comparison, then, is not between December 2010 and January 2011, but between January 2010 and January 2011.

Compared to January 2010, unemployment rates were lower in 86 counties and every metro area. Yet compared to a year ago, 86 counties and 12 metro areas had smaller labor forces. Among metros, Winston-Salem posted the largest decline in the size of its labor force (-2.5 percent), followed by Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (-2.3 percent) and Goldsboro (-2 percent). Asheville posted the largest gain (+1.1 percent).

“While seven of North Carolina’s metro areas—led by Raleigh-Cary, Burlington, and Asheville—recorded modest levels of job growth in 2010, overall growth levels were insufficient to drive down joblessness,” cautions Quinterno. “Much of the recent improvement in unemployment is due to the exiting of workers from the labor market. The contraction in the size of the labor force remains a worrisome development, and jobless individuals are at grave risk of being left behind.”

In the long term, any meaningful recovery will be driven by growth in the state’s three major metro regions: Charlotte, the Research Triangle, and the Piedmont Triad. Yet growth has been sluggish. Collectively, employment in these three metro regions has fallen by 5.9 percent since December 2007. The combined January unemployment rate in the three major metros equaled 9.7 percent. Of the three areas, the Research Triangle had the lowest unemployment rate (8.3 percent), followed by the Piedmont Triad (10.7 percent) and Charlotte (11.5 percent).

“Since December 2009, the month when then the state’s labor market bottomed out, most local job markets have experienced few meaningful improvements,” explains Quinterno. “Compounding the problem is the fact that annual data revisions have revealed the state’s job gap to be even larger than first thought. The current rate of job growth simple is insufficient to solve the problem of widespread joblessness.”

10.03.2011 News Releases, Policy Points Comments Off on New Year, Same NC Job Market

New Year, Same NC Job Market

CHAPEL HILL (March 10, 2011) – North Carolina’s labor market did not begin 2011 on a footing much different from the one on which it ended 2010. According to data released today by the Employment Security Commission, North Carolina gained 4,500 payroll positions in January, but that gain did little to close North Carolina’s large jobs gap. Furthermore, annual data revisions released today indicate that the jobs gap is even bigger than first thought.

“January delivered little in the way of meaningful job growth for North Carolina,” says John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Labor market conditions remained quite weak.”

Last month, North Carolina employers added 4,500 more payroll positions than they cut. Net gains occurred in both the private (+2,200) and public (+2,300) sectors. Among private industries, trade, transportation, and utilities netted the most positions (+11,300), followed by  manufacturing (+1,400), and financial activities (+1,100). The gains were offset by declines in construction (-5,100), education and health services (-3,300), and professional and business services and leisure and hospitality services (both -1,000).

Alarmingly, a regular annual revision to Employment Security Commission data revealed that the state has lost even more jobs since 2007 than first thought. The original data showed that, through December 2010, North Carolina had lost, on net, 272,800 payroll positions, but after accounting for today’s revision, the actual net number of jobs lost across the state was 314,900. While job growth in January offset some that gap, North Carolina still has lost, on net, 310,400 positions—7.4 percent of its payroll employment base—since December 2007.

“North Carolina’s labor market is even worse off than previously thought,” notes Quinterno. “Meaningful job growth simply is not occurring, and in many ways, conditions actually have deteriorated. Not only has North Carolina lost more jobs than first estimated, but the recession also ran longer than initially believed. Job loss in North Carolina did not bottom out until December 2009 and since then, total payroll employment has grown by just 0.3 percent.”

Between January 2010 and January 2011, North Carolina gained 6,400 jobs (0.2 percent). Virtually all of the growth (+14,100 positions) occurred in the private sector, while the public sector shed 7,700 positions. In terms of individual industries, professional and business services grew the most in absolute and relative terms (+18,000, +3.8 percent). Construction shed the most jobs in absolute and relative terms (-13,900, -7.7 percent). In the public sector, net job loss resulted entirely from reductions at the state (-4,200) and local (-4,900) levels.

The household data for January, meanwhile, were mixed. Last month, the labor force grew by 0.1 percent as 3,341 more individuals found work or actively sought work. On the other hand, the total number of employed individuals fell, and the number of unemployed individuals rose to 440,622. These dynamics pushed the statewide unemployment rate to 9.9 percent. Furthermore, a variety of other data points suggest that joblessness and the attendant hardships are much more widespread than reflected in the official unemployment measure.

“The ongoing decline in the size of the labor force remains a worrisome trend,” observes Quinterno. “Compared to a year ago, there are 81,835 fewer people working or actively seeking work. In January, just 61.7 percent of the state’s available labor force was employed or seeking work.”

“The January employment offers little evidence that a recovery in the job market is underway in North Carolina,’ added Quinterno. “Compounding the problem is the fact that the annual data revisions showed the state’s job gap to be even larger than first thought. 2011 hardly is off to a good start.”

04.02.2011 News Releases, Policy Points Comments Off on Every Which Way But Up (Or Down)

Every Which Way But Up (Or Down)

CHAPEL HILL (February 4, 2011) – A complex national employment report for January offered few clear insights into the state of the American job market. Last month, employers added just 36,000 more payroll positions than they eliminated, but at the same time, employment rose and the unemployment rate fell to nine percent.

“The January employment report was a messy one due to the inclusion of multiple annual data adjustments and the introduction of certain methodological changes,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “While the effects of those changes will be debated, the bottom line is that the labor market still is not on a speedy path to recovery.”

In January, the nation’s employers added 36,000 more payroll positions than they cut. Gains occurred exclusively in the private sector (+50,000), while government payrolls fell by 14,000 positions due chiefly to cuts at the local level. In recent months, the government sector – the local government sub-sector in particular – has weighed on job growth. Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for November and December were revised upwards. With the revisions, the economy netted 214,000 jobs over those two months rather than the 174,000 positions previously reported.

Private-sector gains in January occurred primarily in manufacturing (+49,000) and professional and business services (+31,000). Private-sector losses occurred in construction (-32,000) with all other private-industry groups experiencing few or no changes.

“The January employment report offered little evidence that a recovery is taking hold in the labor market,” noted Quinterno. “The current pace of growth, while positive, will not produce the jobs needed to accommodate all those Americans who need work.”

In contrast to the payroll report, the household survey for January was more positive. Last month, 13.9 million Americans (9 percent of the labor force) were jobless and seeking work. While the number of unemployed Americans and the unemployed rate fell last month, the size of the labor market fell as well. All of the changes are tied to statistical adjustments and therefore data for December and January are not strictly comparable. On a related note, the share of the population participating in the labor force (64.2 percent) remained at a level last seen in the early 1980s.

Last month, proportionally more adult male workers were unemployed than female ones (8.8 percent vs. 7.9 percent). Similarly, unemployment rates were higher among Black (15.7 percent) and Hispanic workers (11.9 percent) than among White ones (8 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 25.7 percent. With the exception of teenagers, unemployment rates for every major demographic group were lower in January than in December, though methodological changes limit the usefulness of comparisons.

Furthermore, 9.9 percent of all veterans were unemployed in January. The unemployment rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 15.2 percent.

“Despite the sharp drop in the unemployment rate, jobs remained difficult to find in January,” added Quinterno. “Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 16.1 percent. Among unemployed workers, 43.8 percent had been jobless for at least six months with the average spell of unemployment lasting for 36.9 weeks.”

“The messy January employment report offers little guidance as to the state of the American job market,” observed Quinterno. “The sharp drop in the unemployment rate seemingly is inconsistent with the recorded level of payroll job growth. Yet the confusion should not obscure the fact that the labor market remains in ill-health by most any objective measure.”