Policy Points

08.01.2014 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

“Running the Numbers” Published

CHAPEL HILL, NC (January 8, 2014) – Today, South by North Strategies, Ltd. announces the worldwide release of Running the Numbers: A Practical Guide to Regional Economic and Social Analysis, a book written by John Quinterno, the firm’s founder, and published by M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

About the Book
Praised as a “book that is long overdue,” Running the Numbers demystifies data concepts, sources, and methods for public service professionals, university students, and citizens interested in understanding economic and social issues at the regional level. Through use of practical examples and a plainspoken narrative style, the book equips public administrators, urban planners, nonprofit executives, philanthropists, journalists, and graduate students in various disciplines to wield social and economic data for the benefit of their communities.

Running the Numbers explores a wide array of topics of regional importance, including economic output, demographics, industrial structure, labor markets, income, and deprivation, among many others. The book stresses practical applications, minimizes the use of math, and employs extended, chapter-length examples that demonstrate how analytical tools can illuminate the social and economic workings of actual regions within the United States.

A detailed listing of the book’s contents and a preview excerpt are available online.

Formats and Availability
Running the Numbers is available for purchase in paperback (ISBN: 9780765641052) and hardcover (ISBN: 9780765641045) editions in all global markets directly from the publisher or through such online and physical booksellers as Amazon.com (including many of its global sites) and Barnes & Noble. Click to view a selected list of retailers.

The list price of the paperback edition is USD $42.95, and the list price of the hardcover edition is USD $89.95. Prices vary outside of the United States.

Additionally, Running the Numbers is available as an e-book (ISBN: 9780765641083) that may be purchased from the publisher (web and iPad formats), the Google Play store (scanned pages), and other online retailers. The price is USD $24.95.

About the Author and Publisher
The author of Running the Numbers is John Quinterno, the founder and principal of South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research consultancy specializing in economic and social policy. Over the course of his career, Quinterno has directed multiple applied research projects into matters of labor economics, workforce development, regional policy, social insurance, and postsecondary education. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Quinterno resides in Chapel Hill, NC.

The publisher of Running the Numbers is M.E. Sharpe, Inc., an award-winning independent publisher of books and journals in the social sciences and humanities, including titles in economics, business, political science, management, public administration, and history. The firm is located in Armonk, NY.

Advance Praise
Running the Numbers is a book that is long overdue. Whether you’re a journalist, a planner or policy analyst, or a student looking to enter one of these fields, this book offers lucid, easy-to-read overviews of important data concepts and sources-a true resource!”
– Greg Schrock, Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning, Portland State University

“What a gift. By delivering on its promise to demystify economic and social analysis, Running the Numbers provides powerful insights on regional data for practitioners and students of economic development.”
– Anita Brown-Graham, Institute for Emerging Issues, North Carolina State University

Inquiries
Please direct questions about the book’s contents and inquires about speaking and training engagements to the author at johnq[at]sbnstrategies.com or (919) 622-2392.

Please direct questions about sales and availability to M.E. Sharpe at custserv[at]mesharpe.com or 1-800-541-6563, x148.

College and university instructors interested in examining a copy of the book for potential classroom use should contact M.E. Sharpe online or at 1-800-541-6563, x151.

Media outlets and professional journals interested in copies for use in published reviews should contact M.E. Sharpe at custserv[at]mesharpe.com or 1-800-541-6563.

07.01.2014 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

Weak Local Employment Conditions Endure

CHAPEL HILL, NC (January 7, 2014) – Between November 2012 and November 2013, unemployment rates fell in all 100 of North Carolina’s counties and in all 14 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Yet over the same period, the size of the labor force decreased in 92 counties and in 13 metro areas.

These findings come from new estimates released by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“Unemployment rates across much of North Carolina have trended downward over the past year, with the statewide rate falling by 2.2 percentage points,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy.

“Many communities now are seeing some of the lowest unemployment rates recorded since the onset of the ‘Great Recession’ in late 2007,” added Quinterno. “Local unemployment rates nevertheless remain elevated, with 99 counties and 14 metro areas posting unemployment rates greater than those logged at the end of 2007.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 2 percent fewer payroll jobs (-83,900). In November, the state lost 6,500 more jobs than it gained (-0.2 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 5,420 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 243,900 positions (+6.4 percent).

Between October 2013 and November 2013, local unemployment rates decreased in 91 of the state’s 100 counties and rose in 9 counties. Individual county rates in November ranged from 4.3 percent in Orange County to 13.5 percent in Scotland County. Overall, 6 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 57 counties posted rates between 7 and 9.9 percent.

“Non-metropolitan labor markets still are struggling relative to metropolitan ones,” noted Quinterno. “In November, 7.8 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 6.6 percent of the metro labor force. Compared to December 2007, the non-metro labor force now has 5 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 37.2 percent larger.”

Between October and November, unemployment rates fell in all 14 of the state’s metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest November unemployment rate (10 percent), followed by Fayetteville (8.1 percent) and Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (7.6 percent). Durham-Chapel Hill had the lowest unemployment rate (5.1 percent), followed by Asheville (5.2 percent) and Raleigh-Cary (5.4 percent).

Compared to November 2012, unemployment rates in November 2013 were lower in all 100 counties and all 14 metro areas. Over the year, however, labor force sizes decreased in 92 counties and in 13 metros. In fact, the statewide labor force was 1.9 percent smaller (-88,254 individuals) in November 2013 than it was in November 2012.

Among metros, Rocky Mount’s labor force contracted at the greatest rate (-5 percent), followed by Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (-3.1 percent) and Burlington and Jacksonville (both -2.4 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 72 percent of the state’s labor force, with 50.8 percent of the labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

In the long term, improvements in overall labor market conditions depend on growth in the Charlotte, Research Triangle, and Piedmont Triad regions. Yet growth in these metros remains muted. Collectively, employment in the three metro regions has risen by 5.1 percent since December 2007, and the combined unemployment rate in November totaled 6.3 percent. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest November unemployment rate (5.5 percent), followed by the Piedmont Triad (6.9 percent) and Charlotte (7 percent).

The local employment report for November also provides insights into the effects of the extensive changes to the state’s system of unemployment insurance implemented over the summer. Last month, the number of regular unemployment insurance initial claims filed in North Carolina totaled 26,273, down from the 60,805 initial claims filed a year earlier (-56.8 percent).

Mecklenburg County was home to greatest number of regular initial claims (2,551), followed by Wake (2,095), Guilford (1,253), Cumberland (840), and Forsyth (761) counties.

In November 2013, North Carolinians received a (nominal) total of $55.7 million in regular state-funded and federal unemployment insurance compensation, down from the (nominal) $200.7 million received in November 2012. This sharp decline (-72.2 percent) is attributable to a mix of factors, such as drops in the number of insurance claims resulting from economic improvements and legal changes to eligibility criteria.

Additionally, the state’s decision to exit the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program reduced the amount of federal unemployment insurance compensation flowing into the state in November. Between November 20102 and November 2013, the amount of federal unemployment insurance benefits paid to North Carolinians fell by 97.1 percent, dropping to a (nominal) total of $3.1 million from a (nominal) total of $106 million.

“Despite recent declines in local unemployment rates, labor market conditions remain weak across much of North Carolina,” said Quinterno. “The declines in local unemployment rates actually are obscuring a number of alarming developments—developments that are consistent with an under-performing economy.”

02.01.2014 Policy Points No Comments

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 12/14/13

For the benefit week ending on December 14, 2014, North Carolinians filed some 7,648 initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 72,109 claims for state-funded continuing benefits. Compared to the prior week, there were more initial claims and fewer continuing claims. These figures come from data released by the US Department of Labor.

Averaging new and continuing claims over a four-week period — a process that helps adjust for seasonal fluctuations and better illustrates trends — shows that an average of 7,108 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 72,631 continuing claims. Compared to the previous four-week period, the average number of initial claims was higher, and the average number of continuing claims was higher.

One year ago, the four-week average for initial claims stood at 15,131, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 105,233.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.85 million versus 3.78 million). Nevertheless, there are still fewer covered workers than there were in January 2008, which means that payrolls are smaller today than they were almost six years ago.

The graph (below right) shows the changes  in unemployment insurance claims measured as a share of covered employment in North Carolina since the recession’s start in December 2007.untitled

Both new and continuing claims appear to have peaked for this cycle, and the four-week averages of new and continuing claims have fallen considerably, though the numbers have been trending upward in recent weeks. That said, the four-week average of initial claims, when measured as a share of covered employment, is close to the lowest level recorded since early 2008. The four-week average of continuing claims also has fallen to near the lowest level recorded since early 2008.

Note that the recent declines in new and continuing claims are not necessarily indicative of an improving labor market. State legislation that took effect on July 1, 2013, made major changes to insurance eligibility criteria, and the more stringent criteria eliminate claims that would have been valid prior to July 1. In time, this development also should reduce the number of continuing claims. Additionally, the legislation reduced the maximum number of weeks  of state-funded insurance for which a claimant is eligible — an action that eventually should lead to a reduction in the number of continuing claims.

To place the numbers in context, consider how the four-week average of initial claims (7,108) was 53 percent lower than the figure recorded one year ago (15,131), while the average number of continuing claims was 31 percent lower (72,631 versus 105,233). Given the relative lack of improvement in labor market condition in North Carolina over the past year, such declines likely are products of changes to unemployment insurance laws rather than improvements in underlying economic conditions.

20.12.2013 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

NC Unemployment Rate Hits A Five-Year Low

CHAPEL HILL, NC (December 20, 2013) – In November, employers in North Carolina eliminated 6,500 more payroll positions than they added (-0.2 percent), due primarily to a net loss of 5,000 private-sector jobs. The monthly household survey, however, recorded a significant drop in the state’s unemployment rate to 7.4 percent, which was the lowest monthly figure logged since November 2008. While North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell sharply over the past year, most of the decline was attributable to a contraction in the size of the state’s labor force, which now has 95,009 fewer members (-2 percent) than it did a year ago.

These findings come from new data released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Department of Commerce.

“The November jobs report offered a muddled picture of the state’s labor market,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “On the one hand, employers reported having fewer positions on their payrolls than in October, but on the other hand, more people reported being employed.”

Between October and November, North Carolina businesses shed 6,500 more jobs than they added (-0.2 percent). Private-sector payrolls cut 5,000 more jobs than they gained (-0.1 percent), and public-sector payrolls lost -1,500 jobs (-0.2 percent). Within the private sector, the educational and health services sector lost the most jobs (-4,100, -0.7 percent), followed by the manufacturing (-3,300, -0.7 percent), finance (-2,500, -1.2 percent), and other services (-1,000, -0.7 percent) sectors. The trade, transportation, and utilities sector, meanwhile, netted the most jobs (+2,600, +0.3 percent), followed by the professional and business services (+2,000, +0.4 percent) and construction (+1,600, +1 percent) sectors.

A revision to the October payroll data found that the state gained 3,600 more jobs that month than first estimated (+25,800 versus +22,200). With that revision, North Carolina now has, on net, 83,900 fewer payroll positions (-2 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state has netted an average of 5,420 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 243,900 positions (+6.4 percent). At that rate, all else equal, it would take until March 2015 for the state to have as many payroll jobs as it did at the end of 2007.

The household data recorded in November offered a somewhat more optimistic view of the state’s labor market. Last month, the statewide unemployment rate fell by 0.6 percentage points and reached 7.4 percent, which was the lowest rate recorded since November 2008, when the rate was 7.7 percent. Additionally, 20,037 more North Carolinians had jobs in November (+0.5 percent) than in October. At the same time, the size of the labor force fell slightly (-8,101, -0.2 percent) over the month and reached a level smaller than the one posted in August 2011.

When placed in a broader context, the household data reported in November offer evidence of an underperforming labor market. Between November 2012 and November 2013, the statewide unemployment rate fell by 2 percentage points, dropping to 7.4 percent from 9.4 percent. Yet the decline was attributable to people leaving the labor force rather than finding new positions. While 101,091 fewer North Carolinians were unemployed in November compared to a year earlier (-22.7 percent), just 6,082 more people were employed (+0.1 percent). The remaining 95,009 people left the labor force altogether (-2 percent).

Continued declines in two major measures of labor utilization provide additional evidence of an underperforming labor market. In August, the labor force participation rate dipped to 61.3 percent, which was the lowest monthly figure recorded at any point since 1976. In fact, the labor force participation rate has fallen every month since January. Although another important measure, the employment-to-population ratio, rose in November, the current ratio of 56.8 percent is still 0.5 percentage points below the level recorded a year ago and just 0.5 percentage points above the 37-year low of 56.3 percent posted in the summer of 2011.

November’s labor market report provided additional insight into the effects of the extensive changes to the state’s system of unemployment insurance compensation implemented over the summer. Between October 2013 and November 2013, the number of claimants receiving regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation declined by 4.4 percent, falling to 58,432 from 61,125. Compared to a year earlier, 42,514 fewer claimants received regular state-funded insurance in November (-42.1 percent).

Also in November, the state paid a (nominal) total of $52.6 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, an amount 44.4 percent lower than the (nominal) total of $94.7 million paid in November 2012.

“The significant drop in the state’s unemployment rate in November should not blind observers to three troubling realities,” observed Quinterno. “First, the decline in the unemployment rate masks the fact that sizable numbers of joblessness North Carolinians have left the labor market altogether. Second, while the monthly unemployment rate of 7.4 percent is the lowest one posted in five years, the rate remains extremely high; in fact, the current rate is 0.5 percentage points greater than the highest figure recorded during the 2001 recession. Lastly, jobless North Carolinians increasingly are being left to their own devices, as evidenced by the declines in unemployment insurance payments.”

19.12.2013 Policy Points No Comments

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 11/30/13

For the benefit week ending on November 30, 2013, North Carolinians filed some 8,700 initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 74,243 claims for state-funded continuing benefits. Compared to the prior week, there were more initial claims and more continuing claims. These figures come from data released by the US Department of Labor.

Averaging new and continuing claims over a four-week period — a process that helps adjust for seasonal fluctuations and better illustrates trends — shows that an average of 6,619 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 71,629 continuing claims. Compared to the previous four-week period, the average number of initial claims was higher, and the average number of continuing claims was higher.

One year ago, the four-week average for initial claims stood at 14,089, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 102,195.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.85 million versus 3.78 million). Nevertheless, there are still fewer covered workers than there were in January 2008, which means that payrolls are smaller today than they were almost six years ago.

The graph (below right) shows the changes  in unemployment insurance claims measured as a share of covered employment in North Carolina since the recession’s start in December 2007.untitled

Both new and continuing claims appear to have peaked for this cycle, and the four-week averages of new and continuing claims have fallen considerably.  In fact, the four-week average of initial claims, when measured as a share of covered employment, is near the lowest level recorded since early 2008. The four-week average of continuing claims also has fallen to near the lowest level recorded since early 2008.

Note that the recent declines in new and continuing claims are not necessarily indicative of an improving labor market. State legislation that took effect on July 1, 2013, made major changes to insurance eligibility criteria, and the more stringent criteria eliminate claims that would have been valid prior to July 1. In time, this development also should reduce the number of continuing claims. Additionally, the legislation reduced the maximum number of weeks  of state-funded insurance for which a claimant is eligible — an action that eventually should lead to a reduction in the number of continuing claims.

To place the numbers in context, consider how the four-week average of initial claims (6,619) was 53 percent lower than the figure recorded one year ago (14,089), while the average number of continuing claims was 30.3 percent lower (71,629 versus 102,195). Given the relative lack of improvement in labor market condition in North Carolina over the past year, such declines likely are products of changes to unemployment insurance laws rather than improvements in underlying economic conditions.