CHAPEL HILL, NC (May 16, 2014) – In April, employers in North Carolina added 15,300 more payroll positions than they cut (+0.4 percent), due entirely to growth in the private sector. The monthly household survey, meanwhile, recorded a drop in unemployment, with the statewide unemployment rate falling to 6.2 percent, which was the lowest monthly rate logged since the middle of 2008. Nevertheless, North Carolina still has fewer payroll jobs, more unemployed residents, and a higher unemployment rate than it did some 6.25 years ago.
These findings come from new data released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Department of Commerce.
“The April employment report is another entry in the series of mixed reports recorded over the last few months,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “In April, North Carolina experienced a rmodest gain in the total number of payroll jobs in the state for the second month in a row. Yet compared to year earlier, a smaller share of the state’s working-age population was participating in the labor force.”
Between March 2014 and April 2014, North Carolina employers added 15,300 more jobs than they cut (+0.4 percent). Private-sector payrolls netted 16,800 positions (+0.5 percent), but public-sector payrolls shed, on net, 1,500 jobs (-0.2 percent). Within private industry, the professional and business services sector netted the most jobs (+7,600, with 86.8 percent of the increase originating in the administrative and waste management subsector), followed by the leisure and hospitality sector (+5,600 jobs, with all of the increase originating in the accommodation and food service subsector) and the trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities sector (+2,200, with almost all of the gain originating in the retail trade subsector). Meanwhile, the construction sector shed the most payroll jobs (-2,500), followed by the education and health services sector (-1,400).
A revision to the March 2014 payroll data found that the state gained 1,700 fewer jobs that month than first estimated (+17,700 versus +19,400). With the revision, North Carolina has, on net, 54,100 fewer payroll positions (-1.3 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state has netted an average of 5,494 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 274,700 positions (+7.2 percent). At that rate, holding all else equal, it would take until February 2015 for the state to have as many jobs as it did at the end of 2007.
“While positive, the pace of payroll growth in North Carolina has not quickened over the past year,” explained Quinterno. “Between April 2013 and April 2014, the total number of payroll jobs in North Carolina grew by 1.4 percent, a rate similar to those seen in prior years. Between April 2012 and April 2013, the total of number payroll jobs in North Carolina rose by 1.7 percent, while between April 2011 and April 2012, the rate of growth also was 1.7 percent. From April 2010 to April 2011, the rate of growth was 1.4 percent. No matter how one cuts the data, North Carolina has experienced the same basic slow rate of job growth for the last four years.”
The household data recorded in April contained some positive news about the state’s labor market. Last month, the statewide unemployment rate fell by 0.1 percentage points to 6.2 percent, which was the lowest monthly rate logged since mid-2008. Additionally, 14,104 more North Carolinians had jobs in April (+0.3 percent) than in March, and 4,193 fewer persons were unemployed (-1.4 percent). And over the month, the size of the state’s labor force essentially held steady at 4.7 million.
While the changes in household data recorded between March and April seemed positive, the data for changes over the past year were less so. Between April 2013 and April 2014, the number of unemployed North Carolinians fell by 102,377 (-26 percent) persons, but 32.2 percent of the decline was attributable to people who left the labor force entirely. If those 33,005 persons were added back to the labor force and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate in April would have equaled 6.9 percent. Even if 50 percent of those individuals were added back to the labor force and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate would have equaled 6.6 percent.
Year-over-year declines in the statewide labor force participation rate provide additional evidence of a labor market that is not growing rapidly enough to accommodate all those who want and need work. In April 2014, the share of working-age North Carolinians participating in the labor market equaled 61.1 percent, down from 62.2 percent in April 2013. Even though the labor force participation rose in April for the first time since late 2011, it remains close to the lowest monthly figure recorded at any point since January 1976.
Although another important measure of labor utilization, the employment-to-population ratio, rose over the year, the current share of working-age North Carolinians with a job (57.3 percent) was just 1 percentage point above the 38-year low of 56.3 percent posted in the summer of 2011.
The April labor market report provided additional insight into the effects of the extensive changes to the state’s system of unemployment insurance implemented over the summer. Between March and April, the number of claimants of regular state-funded insurance fell by 14.8 percent, dropping to 44,892 from 52,666. Compared to a year earlier, 52,750 fewer individuals received regular state-funded insurance in April (-53.8 percent).
Also in April, the state paid a (nominal) total of $38.5 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, an amount 61.2 percent lower than the (nominal) total of $99.2 million paid in April 2013.
“Despite recent declines in the statewide unemployment rate, labor market conditions in North Carolina remain far from healthy. Look beyond the important yet limited measure of the unemployment rate, and one will see labor market dynamics broadly consistent with the sluggish ones that have characterized the past four years. Some four years into a recovery, North Carolina still has fewer jobs and more unemployment than it did before the recession.”