07.30.2014 News Releases, Policy Points

Local Unemployment Rates Down Over The Year

CHAPEL HILL, NC (July 30, 2014)  Between June 2013 and June 2014, unemployment rates once again fell in all of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in all 14 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Over the same period, labor force sizes shrank in 90 counties and in 12 metro areas. 

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

“Local unemployment rates fell across all of North Carolina over the past year,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Although many local labor markets currently have some of the lowest unemployment rates since late 2007, unemployment remains a serious problem. In fact, 61 counties and 9 metro areas have unemployment rates greater than those posted in June 2008.” 

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 1.2 percent fewer payroll jobs (-48,500). In June, the state lost 5,800 more jobs than it lost (-0.1 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 5,390 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 280,300 positions (+7.3 percent). At that rate, all else equal, it would take until early 2015 for the state to have as many payroll jobs as it did at the end of 2007.

Between May and June 2014, local unemployment rates decreased in 81 of the state’s 100 counties, increased in 10 counties, and held constant in 9 counties. Individual county rates in June ranged from 4.2 percent in Currituck County to 12.1 percent in Scotland County. Overall, 3 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 54 counties posted rates between 6.6 and 9.9 percent. (Because seasonal fluctuations in labor markets are pronounced in the summer, month-to-month changes provide limited insight into trends.)

“Non-metropolitan labor markets continue to lag behind metropolitan ones,” noted Quinterno. “In June, 7.1 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 6.2 percent of the metro labor force. Compared to December 2007, the non-metro labor force now has 3.7 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 24.2 percent larger. Over that time, the size of the non-metro labor force has fallen by 2.2 percent.” 

Between May and June, unemployment rates dropped in 13 of the state’s 14 metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (9.6 percent), followed by Fayetteville (7.5 percent) and Greenville and Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (both 6.9 percent). Asheville had the lowest unemployment rate (4.9 percent), followed by Durham-Chapel Hill (5.1 percent) and Raleigh-Cary (5.2 percent). 

Compared to June 2013, unemployment rates in June 2014 were lower in all 100 counties and all 14 metro areas. Over the year, however, labor force sizes decreased in 90 counties and in 12 metros. In fact, the statewide labor force (seasonally adjusted) was 0.3 percent smaller (-11,953 individuals) in June 2014 than it was in June 2013. 

Among metros, Rocky Mount’s labor force contracted at the fastest rate (-3.4 percent) over the course of the year, followed by Fayetteville (-3.1 percent) and Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (-2.9 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, although improved in recent months, remains subdued. Collectively, employment in the three metro regions has risen by 5.9 percent since December 2007, and the combined unemployment rate in June totaled 6 percent (compared to 5.8 percent in June 2008). Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest June unemployment rate (5.3 percent), followed by Charlotte (6.4 percent) and the Piedmont Triad (6.5 percent).  

The local employment report for June also provided insights into the effects of the extensive changes to the state’s system of unemployment insurance implemented last summer. Last month, the number of regular unemployment insurance initial claims filed in North Carolina totaled 24,209, down from the 44,734 initial claims filed a year earlier (-45.9 percent). 

Mecklenburg County was home to greatest number of regular initial claims (2,961), followed by Wake (2,103), Guilford (1,522), Cumberland (860), and Forsyth (822) counties. 

In June 2014, North Carolinians received a (nominal) total of $38 million in regular state-funded and federal unemployment insurance compensation, down from the (nominal) $189.4 million received in June 2013. This sharp decline (-79.9 percent) is attributable to a mix of factors, such as drops in the number of insurance claims resulting from economic improvements and legal changes that restricted eligibility for insurance compensation. 

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 June. Between June 2013 and June 2014, the amount of federal unemployment insurance benefits paid to North Carolinians fell by 98.8 percent, dropping to a (nominal) total of $1.1 million from a (nominal) total of $95.2 million. (Note that the US Congress allowed the EUC program to expire at the start of 2014.)

“Despite recent improvements in some important indicators, labor market conditions in communities across North Carolina still have not returned to their pre-recessionary states,” said Quinterno. “The June data showed little deviation from the basic pattern that has characterized the state’s labor market for the past four years; namely, a painfully slow recovery.” 

07.24.2014 Policy Points

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 7/5/14

For the benefit week ending on July 5, 2014, North Carolinians filed some 5,854 initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 53,354 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 5,455 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 51,676 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 8,842, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 94,581.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.89 million versus 3.82 million). Nevertheless, there are still fewer covered workers than there were in January 2008, which means that payrolls are smaller today than they were more than 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 have peaked for this cycle, and the four-week averages of new and continuing claims have fallen considerably. The four-week average of initial claims, when measured as a share of covered employment, is near the lowest level recorded since early 2008, while the four-week average of continuing claims also is 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. Additionally, the legislation reduced the maximum number of weeks  of state-funded insurance for which a claimant is eligible — an action that would reduce the number of continuing claims.

To place the numbers in context, consider how the four-week average of initial claims (5,455) was 38.3 percent lower than the figure recorded one year ago (8,842), while the average number of continuing claims was 45.4 percent lower (51,676 versus 94,581). Given the modest rate of job growth that has occurred 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.

07.18.2014 News Releases, Policy Points

North Carolina’s Slow Recovery Continues

CHAPEL HILL, NC (July 18, 2014) – In June, employers in North Carolina shed 5,800 more payroll positions than they added (-0.1 percent), due almost entirely to reductions in the payrolls of local governments. The monthly household survey, meanwhile, recorded no change in the unemployment rate (6.4 percent), even though the number of employed persons fell over the month. With those developments, North Carolina has 1.2 percent fewer payroll jobs, 30.9 more unemployed residents, and a higher unemployment rate (+1.4 percentage points) than it did 6.5 years ago.

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

“The June employment report is indicative of a state labor market experiencing a painfully slow recovery,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Last month, North Carolina lost more jobs than it gained, and the state experienced declines in both the size of the labor force and the number of employed residents. While conditions in the state are better in some ways than they were a year ago, they still have not returned to their pre-recessionary levels.”

Between May 2014 and June 2014, North Carolina employers cut 5,800 more jobs than they added (-0.1 percent). Private-sector payrolls netted 7,500 positions (+0.2 percent), but public-sector payrolls shed, on net, 13,300 jobs (-1.9 percent), owing primarily to reductions by local governments. Within private industry, the professional and business services sector netted the most jobs (+3,700, with almost of the gains occurring in administrative and waste management subsector), followed by the financial activities sector (+3,400, +1.6 percent) and the trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities sector (+1,000, with almost all the gain originating in the retail trade subsector). Meanwhile, the information sector shed 500 more jobs than it added (-0.7 percent). All other major industrial sectors experienced little change in payroll size.

A revision to the May 2014 payroll data found that the state gained 3,000 more jobs that month than first estimated (+8,700 versus +5,700). With the revision, North Carolina has, on net, 48,500 fewer payroll positions (-1.2 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state has netted an average of 5,400 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 280,300 positions (+7.3 percent). At that rate, holding all else equal, it would take until early 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 changed radically over the past year,” noted Quinterno. “Between June 2013 and June 2014, the total number of payroll jobs in North Carolina grew by 1.8 percent, a rate similar to that seen in prior years. Between June 2012 and June 2013, the total of number payroll jobs in North Carolina rose by 1.7 percent, while between June 2011 and June 2012, the rate of growth was 1.5 percent. In effect, North Carolina has logged the same slow rate of job growth for several years in a row.”

The household data recorded in June contained negative news about the state’s labor market. Last month, the statewide unemployment rate held steady at 6.4 percent, even though the number of employed persons fell by 8,577 (-0.2 percent). However, a decline in the size of the statewide labor force (-10,719 persons, -0.2 percent) blunted the impact of the drop in employment. Remember, however, that the monthly changes in the June data should be interpreted cautiously due to the seasonal dynamics often present at the start of summer.

While the changes in household data recorded between May and June appeared negative, the data for changes over the past year were more mixed. Between June 2013 and June 2014, the number of unemployed North Carolinians fell by 89,007 persons (-22.9 percent), but 13.4 percent of the decline was attributable to people who left the labor force entirely. If those 11,953 persons were added back to the labor force and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate in June would have equaled 6.6 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 6.5 percent.

Year-over-year declines in the statewide labor force participation rate provide additional evidence of an underperforming labor market. In June 2014, the share of working-age North Carolinians participating in the labor market equaled 61.1 percent, which was lower than the 62 percent figure recorded a year ago. The June labor force participation rate was only slightly above the lowest monthly figure (61 percent) recorded at any time since January 1976.

In contrast, another important measure of labor utilization, the employment-to-population ratio, rose over the year, climbing to 57.2 percent from 56.8 percent. Nevertheless, the current share of working-age North Carolinians with a job is just 0.9 percentage points above the 38-year low of 56.3 percent posted in 2011.

The June labor market report provided additional insight into the effects of the extensive changes to the state’s system of unemployment insurance implemented last summer. Between May and June, the number of claimants of regular state-funded insurance fell by 4.8 percent, dropping to 40,347 from 42,382. Compared to a year earlier, 50,631 fewer individuals received regular state-funded insurance in June (-55.7 percent).

Also in June, the state paid a (nominal) total of $36.8 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, an amount 60.9 percent lower than the (nominal) total of $94.2 million paid in June 2013.

“Despite some improvements in North Carolina’s labor market over the year, most of the improvements have been marginal ones,” added Quinterno. A consideration of indicators other than the important-yet-limited unemployment rate reveals a labor market that is adding jobs too slowly to overcome the consequences of the last recession anytime soon.”

07.17.2014 Policy Points

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 6/28/14

For the benefit week ending on June 28, 2014, North Carolinians filed some 4,824 initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 50,775 claims for state-funded continuing benefits. Compared to the prior week, there were fewer 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 5,363 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 51,192 continuing claims. Compared to the previous four-week period, the average number of initial claims was lower, and the average number of continuing claims was lower.

One year ago, the four-week average for initial claims stood at 9,712, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 85,006.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.89 million versus 3.82 million). Nevertheless, there are still fewer covered workers than there were in January 2008, which means that payrolls are smaller today than they were more than 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 have peaked for this cycle, and the four-week averages of new and continuing claims have fallen considerably. The four-week average of initial claims, when measured as a share of covered employment, is near the lowest level recorded since early 2008, while the four-week average of continuing claims also is at 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. Additionally, the legislation reduced the maximum number of weeks  of state-funded insurance for which a claimant is eligible — an action that should reduce the number of continuing claims.

To place the numbers in context, consider how the four-week average of initial claims (4,824) was 50.3 percent lower than the figure recorded one year ago (9,712), while the average number of continuing claims was 40.3 percent lower (50,775 versus 85,006). Given the modest rate of job growth that has occurred 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.

07.10.2014 Policy Points

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 6/21/14

For the benefit week ending on June 21, 2014, North Carolinians filed some 5,356 initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 51,416 claims for state-funded continuing benefits. Compared to the prior week, there were fewer 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 5,573 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 51,593 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 lower.

One year ago, the four-week average for initial claims stood at 10,787, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 86,573.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.89 million versus 3.82 million). Nevertheless, there are still fewer covered workers than there were in January 2008, which means that payrolls are smaller today than they were more than 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 have peaked for this cycle, and the four-week averages of new and continuing claims have fallen considerably. The four-week average of initial claims, when measured as a share of covered employment, is near the lowest level recorded since early 2008, while the four-week average of continuing claims also is 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. Additionally, the legislation reduced the maximum number of weeks  of state-funded insurance for which a claimant is eligible — an action that should reduce the number of continuing claims.

To place the numbers in context, consider how the four-week average of initial claims (5,573) was 48.3 percent lower than the figure recorded one year ago (10,787), while the average number of continuing claims was 40.4 percent lower (51,593 versus 86,573). Given the modest rate of job growth that has occurred 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.