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08.09.2010 News Releases, Our Projects, Policy Points Comments Off on Philanthropic Efforts to Better Postsecondary Education

Philanthropic Efforts to Better Postsecondary Education

Strengthening state postsecondary education and skill development systems – systems that encompass such programs as technical education, literacy instruction, and occupational training – requires comprehensive changes to public policies and institutional practices. To that end, various philanthropic foundations recently have launched ambitious, multi-state, multi-year efforts to raise the educational attainment of Americans.

To boost understanding of the recent wave of philanthropic interest in state postsecondary education and skills development systems, The Working Poor Families Project, a national initiative to strengthen state policies and programs, asked South by North Strategies, Ltd. to identify several reform efforts designed to expand the opportunities available to low-income working families.

The resulting report, Widening The Doorways of Opportunity, profiles seven efforts: Achieving the Dream, the Postsecondary Success Initiative, Complete College America,  Breaking Through, the Developmental Education Initiative, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and Shifting Gears.

27.08.2010 News Releases, Policy Points Comments Off on NC Local Employment Sags in July

NC Local Employment Sags in July

CHAPEL HILL (August 27, 2010) – North Carolina’s local labor markets performed poorly in July, according to preliminary data released today by the Employment Security Commission. Last month, 54 counties posted double-digit unemployment rates, while 20 counties recorded rates of at least 12 percent.

“North Carolina’s labor market struggled in July,” says John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Although conditions in some communities improved somewhat, joblessness remains a serious problem across the state.”

Since the onset of the recession in December 2007, North Carolina has shed 6.6 percent of its payroll employment base (-276,700 positions) and has watched its unadjusted unemployment rate climb from 4.7 percent to 9.9 percent.

Every part of the state experienced weak labor markets in July. Unemployment rates exceeded 10 percent in 54 counties, and in 20 counties, at least 12 percent of the labor force was jobless and actively seeking work. County unemployment rates ranged from 4.5 percent in Currituck County to 16.2 percent in Scotland County.

“Labor markets in non-metropolitan communities remain particularly weak,” adds Quinterno. “Last month, 10.8 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 9.5 percent of the metro one. More alarmingly, the non-metropolitan labor force continued to shrink. Since December 2007, the non-metropolitan labor force has contracted by 1.5 percent. Many of those missing individuals are effectively jobless.”

Last month, unemployment rates fell in all 14 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (12.8 percent), followed by the Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir area (12.7 percent). Durham-Chapel Hill had the lowest rate at 7.3 percent.

“Because of the lack of seasonal adjustments, monthly fluctuations in local unemployment rates must be interpreted cautiously, particularly during the volatile summer months,” warns Quinterno. “A better comparison is an annual one.”

Compared to July 2009, unemployment rates were the same or lower in 96 counties and every metro area. Yet compared to a year ago, 81 counties and 8 metro areas had smaller labor forces. Among metros, Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir posted the largest decline in the size of its labor force (-4.5 percent), followed by Burlington (-2.8 percent). Jacksonville posted the largest gain (+7.1 percent).

“Recent drops in unemployment rates have been driven not by improvements in underlying conditions, but by workers abandoning the job market,” cautions Quinterno. ”The robust job growth needed to absorb displaced individuals and new workers is not happening. Much of the little growth occurred earlier in the year has been lost over the summer.”

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 job growth in 2010 has been sluggish. Collectively, employment in these three major metro regions has fallen by 3.7 percent since the start of the recession. The overall July unemployment rate in the major metros equaled 9.5 percent. Of the three areas, the Research Triangle had the lowest July unemployment rate (8 percent), followed by the Piedmont Triad (10.4 percent) and Charlotte (11.6 percent).

“Recent trends have exposed just how weak local economies are,” observes Quinterno. “Private-sector activity remains anemic and is not replacing the economic support provided by various policy measures that have ended or are about to end. What little recovery we’ve had appears in danger of stalling out.”

One somewhat bright spot in the July report was the boost that unemployment insurance benefits provided to individual households and the state’s economy. Explains Quinterno: “Over the past 12 months, unemployed North Carolinians received $5.4 billion in regular state payments and federal emergency benefits. Those payments sparked an estimated $8.9 billion in statewide economic activity.”

20.08.2010 News Releases, Policy Points Comments Off on NC Job Market Goes Nowhere

NC Job Market Goes Nowhere

CHAPEL HILL (August 20, 2010) – The latest employment report for North Carolina is the worst one recorded so far in 2010. In July, the state shed 29,800 more payroll positions than it added. This drop erased 77 percent of the payroll employment gains made during the year’s first half. Moreover, a fall in the size of the labor force suggests that joblessness is more widespread than reflected in the unemployment rate.

“North Carolina’s fragile job market took a turn for the worse in July,” says John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “The job report was the worst one of the year and points to a labor market that is deteriorating rather than improving.”

In July, employers cut 29,800 more positions than they added. The public sector shed 27,300 positions with local governments responsible for most of the losses (-26,500). Total private-sector payroll employment fell by 2,500 positions. Among private industries, construction lost the most positions (-2,800), followed by leisure and hospitality services (-1,700) and professional and business services (-1,300). The losses were offset by gains in trade, transportation, and utilities (+2,800), manufacturing (+600), and finance (+600).

Additionally, a revision to the June data eliminated the slight net gain first reported for the month. Rather than gaining 5,100 positions, North Carolina actually lost 3,700 jobs. After accounting for that revision, North Carolina has shed, on net, 276,700 positions or 6.6 percent of its payroll employment base since December 2007.

“Last month’s payroll losses erased 77 percent of the gains recorded during the first half of 2010,” notes Quinterno. “North Carolina has netted just 9,000 payroll jobs since December. The pace of growth – 1,300 positions per month – is insufficient to keep pace with population growth, let alone replace the jobs lost during the recession.”

Labor market conditions have been flat over the past year. Compared to July 2009, the state had 6,000 (+0.2 percent) more jobs. In terms of individual industries, professional and business services grew the most in absolute and relative terms (+19,700, +4.3 percent). Government added 14,000 positions (+2 percent). Construction (-18,300) and manufacturing (-7,900) lost the greatest number of positions over the past year with construction declining the most in relative terms (-9.7 percent).

July’s household data also were troubling. Last month, the labor force contracted by 0.8 percent as 35,612 individuals stopped working or seeking work. The number of employed individuals fell, as did the number of unemployed individuals. Owing mainly to the contraction of the labor force, the unemployment rate fell from 10 percent to 9.8 percent. The reduction in the size of the labor force is disturbing and suggests that joblessness is much more widespread than reflected in official measures.

“Some 59,900 North Carolinians have left the labor force since May,” observes Quinterno. “The contraction is responsible for much of the recent decline in the unemployment rate. Unfortunately, this trend is consistent with a labor market that is declining rather than recovering.”

“The July jobs report exposed just how weak the economy really is,” explains Quinterno. “The economy is proving unable to generate jobs absent the crutch provided by public policy supports, and individuals across the state simply are abandoning the labor market.”

06.08.2010 News Releases, Policy Points Comments Off on An All-Too-Familiar Jobs Report

An All-Too-Familiar Jobs Report

CHAPEL HILL (August 6, 2010) – The national employment report for July showed little deviation from recent trends. Last month, employers eliminated 131,000 more payroll positions than they added. An expected fall in temporary census employment drove that decline; after accounting for it, the economy netted 12,000 positions, a level grossly insufficient to either keep pace with workforce growth or re-absorb jobless individuals.

“Fundamental employment dynamics were little changed in July,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Payroll employment fell due to the ending of temporary census positions. When those jobs are excluded, the nation netted just 12,000 payroll positions, all of which were in the private sector.”

In July, the nation’s employers shed 131,000 more payroll positions than they added. Losses occurred primarily in the public sector due to the elimination of 143,000 temporary census jobs coupled with the loss of another 59,000 federal, state, and local positions. When census reductions are excluded, the economy netted just 12,000 positions. And payroll employment levels for June were revised sharply downward: after adjusting for cuts in census employment, the economy added just 27,000 payroll positions in June.

The largest private-sector gains in July occurred in manufacturing (+36,000) and education and health services (+27,800). Finance payrolls fell by 17,000 positions. All other major industry groups posted little or no change. Meanwhile, the public sector slashed 59,000 positions in addition to temporary census ones; local government accounted for the bulk of that decline.

“The July employment report illustrates just how weak the economy is without policy supports,” noted Quinterno. “The private-sector is proving unable to offset the drop in temporary census employment. So far in 2010, the private sector has added an average of just 90,000 jobs per month. That is an insufficient level of job creation.”

Weak job prospects are reflected in the July household survey. Last month, 14.6 million Americans – 9.5 percent of the labor force – were jobless and actively seeking work. Proportionally more adult male workers were unemployed than female ones (9.7 percent vs. 7.9 percent). Similarly, unemployment rates were higher among Black (15.6 percent) and Hispanic workers (12.1 percent) than among White ones (8.6 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 26.1 percent.

Furthermore, newly available data show that 8.4 percent of all veterans were unemployed in July; the rate among veterans who had served since September 2001 was 11.8 percent.

“In developments inconsistent with a recovery, 181,000 individuals left the labor force in July, and the share of the adult population engaged in economically productive activities fell,” added Quinterno. “Compared to a year ago, the labor force is smaller, fewer people are employed, and the unemployment rate essentially is unchanged.”

Job remained hard to find in July. Last month, 44.9 percent of unemployed workers had been jobless for at least six months with the average spell of unemployment lasting for 34.2 weeks. Many other individuals stopped looking, and counting those individuals and those working part-time on an involuntary basis brings the underemployment rate to 16.5 percent.

“The reduction in temporary census hiring in July exposed just how weak the labor market really is,” observed Quinterno. “The job market appears unable to stand without the crutch provided by policy actions, and jobless individuals across the country simply are abandoning the labor market.”

04.08.2010 News Releases, Our Projects, Policy Points Comments Off on The South’s Difficult Decade

The South’s Difficult Decade

Even before the onset of the “Great Recession” in December 2007, the 2000s had proven to be a difficult decade for working Southerners. Across the region, the 2000s were a period marked by meager job growth, rising joblessness, rapid industrial change, and mounting economic hardships. And the decade’s developments offset many of the gains – most notably against poverty – made by the region during the 1990s.

These findings come from the recent briefing paper, The South’s Difficult Decade, prepared by South by North Strategies, Ltd. for The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation in Winston-Salem, NC.

The brief summarizes key economic changes that occurred between 2000 and 2009 in the ten states where the foundation is active: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.