Policy Points

09.07.2013 Policy Points No Comments

Job Openings In May 2013

From the Economic Policy Institute’s analysis of the May 2013 version of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) …

In May, the number of job seekers, which increased by 101,000 from April, was 11.8 million (unemployment data are from the Current Population Survey … ). The “job-seekers ratio”—the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings—was unchanged in May at 3.1-to-1. The ratio has been 3.0-to-1 or greater since October 2008, more than four-and-a-half years ago. A job-seekers ratio above 3-to-1 means there are no jobs for more than two out of three unemployed workers. To put today’s ratio of 3.1-to-1 in perspective, the highest the ratio ever got in the early 2000s downturn was 2.9-to-1 in September 2003. In a labor market with strong job opportunities, the ratio would be close to 1-to-1, as it was in December 2000 (when it was 1.1-to-1).

05.07.2013 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

National Labor Market Grew In June

CHAPEL HILL, NC (July 5, 2013) – The national labor market added in June 195,000 more jobs than it lost. The unemployment rate, however, was essentially unchanged from the prior month, as was the total number of unemployed Americans. Despite some welcome improvements in key indicators in recent months, unemployment and underemployment remain elevated, while the pace of job growth remains subdued relative to need.

“June was the 33rd-straight month of job growth recorded in the United States,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Over the past twelve months, the national economy has netted an average of 191,000 jobs, a pace that, while positive, is insufficient to drive unemployment down to pre-recessionary levels. Four years into a recovery, the unemployment rate remains well above the pre-recessionary level of 5 percent.”

In June, the nation’s employers added 195,000 more payroll positions than they cut. Gains occurred entirely in the private sector (+202,000), while government employers eliminated 7,000 more positions than they added, owing chiefly to reductions by state governments. Moreover, the payroll employment numbers for April and May underwent positive revisions; with the updates, the economy gained 394,000 jobs over those two months, not the 324,000 positions previously reported.

Within the private sector, payroll levels rose the most in the leisure and hospitality services sector (+75,000, with 76.5 of the gain attributable to the accommodation and food services subsector), followed by the professional and business services sector (+53,000, with 72.6 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste services subsector) and the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+45,000, with 82.4 percent of the gains occurring in the retail trade subsector). Payroll levels fell the most in the manufacturing and information sectors (-6,000 and -5,000, respectively).

“Over the last year, the American economy gained 2.3 million more payroll positions that it lost,” noted Quinterno. “The current average monthly rate of job growth—some 191,000 positions per month—is better than the average logged during the prior 12-month period, but it nevertheless is insufficient to close the nation’s sizable jobs gap anytime soon.”

Slack labor market conditions were evident in the June household survey. Last month, 11.8 million Americans (7.6 percent of the labor force) were jobless and seeking work. Both the unemployment rate and total number of unemployed persons essentially were unchanged from the prior month. Also in June, the share of the population participating in the labor force rose to 63.5 percent, a rate lower than the one posted a year ago. On a positive note, more Americans were working in June compared to a year ago, and fewer persons were unemployed. At the same time, the share of the working age population with a job remained near the lowest figure recorded during the current business cycle.

Last month, the unemployment rate was higher among adult male workers than female ones (7 percent versus 6.8 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (13.7 percent) and Hispanic workers (9.1 percent) than among white ones (6.6 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 24 percent. Moreover, 6.3 percent of all veterans were unemployed; the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 7.2 percent. At the same time, 14.2 percent of Americans with disabilities were jobless and seeking work (not seasonally adjusted).

Jobs remained hard to find in June. Last month, the underemployment rate rose to 14.3 percent. Among unemployed workers, 36.7 percent had been jobless for at least six months, and the average spell of unemployment was 35.6 weeks. The leading cause of unemployment remained a job loss or the completion of a temporary job, which was the reason cited by 52.3 percent of unemployed persons. Another 28.1 percent of unemployed persons were reentrants to the labor market, while 10.8 percent were new entrants. Voluntary job leavers accounted for the remaining 8.8 percent of the total.

“The June employment report contained some good news about the state of the American labor market,” observed Quinterno. “The monthly job gain figure and the positive revisions to data from prior months were noteworthy, but unemployment and underemployment remained elevated. Despite having improved somewhat in recent months, measures of labor utilization remained at depressed levels, and long-term unemployment remains a serious problem.”

03.07.2013 Policy Points No Comments

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 6/8/2013

For the benefit week ending on June 8, 2013, some 11,977 North Carolinians filed initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 90,437 individuals applied for state-funded continuing benefits. Compared to the prior week, there were more initial claims but 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 10,915 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 89,907 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 11,035, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 100,098.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.82 million versus 3.76 million). Nevertheless, there are still fewer covered workers than there were in January 2008, which means that payrolls are smaller today than they were 5.5 years ago.

The graph 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 now at the lowest level recorded since early 2008.  Yet continuing claims remain at an elevated level, which suggests that unemployed individuals are finding it difficult to find new positions.


02.07.2013 News Releases, Policy Points No Comments

Local Unemployment Rates Dip Over The Year

CHAPEL HILL, NC (July 2, 2013) – Between May 2012 and May 2013, unemployment rates fell in 71 of North Carolina’s 100 countries and in 11 of the state’s 14 metropolitan areas. Over the period, the size of the labor force grew in 38 counties and in 9 metro areas. These findings come from new estimates prepared by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“Local unemployment rates fell throughout North Carolina over the course of the year,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Unemployment nevertheless remains elevated, with 41 counties and 2 metro areas posting unemployment rates of at least 10 percent. In May 2008, in contrast, just one county and no metro areas logged unemployment rates of at least 10 percent.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 3 percent fewer jobs (-126,100) and has seen its unadjusted unemployment rate climb to 8.9 percent from 4.7 percent. In May, the state lost 5,900 more jobs than it added (- 0.1 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 5,172 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 201,700 positions (+5.3 percent).

Between April 2013 and May 2013, local unemployment rates increased in 87 of the state’s 100 counties. Individual county rates ranged from 5.7 percent in Currituck County to 16.2 percent in Scotland County. Overall, 41 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 53 counties posted rates between 7 and 9.9 percent.

“Non-metropolitan labor markets continue to struggle relative to metropolitan ones,” noted Quinterno. “In May, 10 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 8.5 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 80.9 percent larger.”

Over the month, unemployment rates rose in all 14 metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (12.8 percent), followed by Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (10.1 percent) and Fayetteville (9.9 percent). Durham-Chapel Hill had the lowest unemployment rate (6.8 percent), followed by Asheville (6.9 percent) and Raleigh-Cary (7.2 percent).

Compared to May 2012, unemployment rates in May 2013 were lower in 71 counties and 11 metro areas. Over the year, labor force sizes increased in 38 counties and in 9 metros. Among metros, Charlotte’s labor force expanded at the fastest rate (+1.8 percent), followed by that of Asheville (+1.7 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 71.8 percent of the state’s labor force, with 50.3 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 subdued. Collectively, employment in those three metro regions has risen by 3.6 percent since December 2007, and the combined May unemployment rate in the three regions equaled 8.2 percent. That was down from the 8.7 percent rate recorded one year ago yet was well above the 5.3 percent rate recorded in May 2008. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest May unemployment rate (7.3 percent), followed by Charlotte (9 percent), and the Piedmont Triad (9.1 percent).

“Over three years into a recovery in North Carolina’s labor market, unemployment rates remain abnormally high across the state,” said Quinterno. “Minimal job growth has occurred thus far in 2013, and the odds that a brisk recovery will take hold anytime soon are slim. North Carolina simply lacks enough jobs for all those who want and need work, yet that alarming fact continues to escape the attention of state and federal policymakers.”

01.07.2013 Our Projects, Policy Points No Comments

A Stronger Safety Net for America’s Children

The economic difficulties stemming from the Great Recession have demonstrated the short-run and long-run  importance of public safety net and work support programs to families with children. At the same time, a variety of administrative and policy factors have constrained the effectiveness of such initiatives, thereby resulting in sizable numbers of low-income people failing to receive all of the assistance for which they are eligible. Heightened awareness of these shortcomings has sparked a variety of state-level reform efforts to strengthen and streamline public initiatives.

A Stronger Safety Net CoverTo document the importance of public safety net programs and work supports, First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, commissioned South by North Strategies to prepare a report that documented the importance  of eleven federal safety net and work support programs, identified the challenges facing those initiatives, and profiled some of the promising reform efforts underway in the states.

Entitled  A Stronger Safety Net for America’s Children, the report was funded by the Foundation for Child Development, a philanthropic organization in New York City. It also was the subject of a congressional briefing held in June 2013.