02.26.2015 Policy Points

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 2/7/15

For the benefit week ending on February 7, 2015, North Carolinians filed some 4,635 initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 41,320 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 5,156 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 42,705 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 5,803, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 73,116.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.94 million versus 3.89 million). Nevertheless, there are still fewer covered workers than there were in January 2008, which means that payrolls are smaller today than they were roughly seven 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 just above the lowest level recorded since early 2008, while the four-week average of continuing claims also is somewhat above the lowest level recorded since early 2008.

Note that the recent year-over-year 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, 2013. Additionally, the legislation reduced the maximum number of weeks  of state-funded insurance for which a claimant is eligible — an action that reduces the number of continuing claims.

To place the numbers in context, consider how the four-week average of initial claims (5,156) was 11.1 percent lower than the figure recorded one year ago (5,803), while the average number of continuing claims was 41.6 percent lower (42,705 versus 73,116). Given the modest rate of job growth that has occurred in North Carolina over the past year, such declines likely are, at least in part, products of changes to unemployment insurance laws rather than improvements in underlying economic conditions.

02.19.2015 Policy Points

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 1/31/15

For the benefit week ending on January 31, 2015, North Carolinians filed some 5,498 initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 42,656 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 5,681 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 43,237 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 6,729, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 74,148.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.94 million versus 3.89 million). Nevertheless, there are still fewer covered workers than there were in January 2008, which means that payrolls are smaller today than they were roughly seven 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 somewhat above the lowest level recorded since early 2008, while the four-week average of continuing claims also is above the lowest level recorded since early 2008.

Note that the recent year-over-year 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, 2013. Additionally, the legislation reduced the maximum number of weeks  of state-funded insurance for which a claimant is eligible — an action that reduces the number of continuing claims.

To place the numbers in context, consider how the four-week average of initial claims (5,498) was 18.3 percent lower than the figure recorded one year ago (6,729), while the average number of continuing claims was 42.5 percent lower (42,656 versus 74,148). Given the modest rate of job growth that has occurred in North Carolina over the past year, such declines likely are, at least in part, products of changes to unemployment insurance laws rather than improvements in underlying economic conditions.

02.17.2015 Our Projects, Policy Points

Online Training: An Introduction to Labor Market Information

In Winter 2015, South by North Strategies developed and delivered two online training sessions on the labor market information (LMI) system. Prepared for the NC Workforce Development Training Center, these webinars offered workforce development professionals an introduction to core LMI concepts and a high-level overview of essential sources of LMI data.

02.12.2015 Policy Points

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 1/24/15

For the benefit week ending on January 24, 2015, North Carolinians filed some 5,427 initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 43,424 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 6,409 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 43,653 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 higher.

One year ago, the four-week average for initial claims stood at 7,633, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 74,573.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.94 million versus 3.87 million). Nevertheless, there are still fewer covered workers than there were in January 2008, which means that payrolls are smaller today than they were seven 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 somewhat above the lowest level recorded since early 2008, while the four-week average of continuing claims also is above the lowest level recorded since early 2008.

Note that the recent year-over-year 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, 2013. Additionally, the legislation reduced the maximum number of weeks  of state-funded insurance for which a claimant is eligible — an action that reduces the number of continuing claims.

To place the numbers in context, consider how the four-week average of initial claims (6,409) was 16 percent lower than the figure recorded one year ago (7,633), while the average number of continuing claims was 41.5 percent lower (43,653 versus 74,573). Given the modest rate of job growth that has occurred in North Carolina over the past year, such declines likely are, at least in part, products of changes to unemployment insurance laws rather than improvements in underlying economic conditions.

02.06.2015 News Releases, Policy Points

US Labor Market Improved In January

CHAPEL HILL, NC (February 6, 2015) – In January, the national labor market added 257,000 more jobs than it lost due entirely to gains in the private sector. After accounting for annual statistical updates, the unemployment rate (5.7 percent) and the number of unemployed persons (9 million) basically were unchanged in January from the prior month.

“January was the 52nd-straight month in which the United States experienced net job growth,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Over the year, the economy netted an average of 267,000 jobs per month, a pace that has mitigated but has not undone the damage inflicted to the labor market by the last recession.”

In January, the nation’s employers added 257,000 more payroll jobs than they cut. All of the gain originated in the private sector (+267,000), while public employers cut 10,000 more positions than they added. Within the private sector, payroll levels increased the most in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+51,000, with 90 percent of the gain occurring in the retail trade subsector), followed by the education and health services (+46,000) and the construction and professional business services sectors (both +39,000). Payroll levels in all other major industry groups rose in January or essentially held steady.

Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for November and December underwent revisions; with the updates, the economy netted 752,000 jobs over those two months, not the 605,000 positions previously reported. With those changes, the average pace of monthly job growth in the United States recorded over the past year rose to 267,000.

“The United States has experienced steady job growth for over four years, but the pace of growth has been modest relative to the country’s needs,” noted Quinterno. “While the United States has more payroll jobs than it did in December 2007, the current average monthly rate of job growth is insufficient to close the jobs gap caused by the recession anytime soon.

After accounting for annual statistical updates, labor market conditions as measured by the household survey improved in January. In January, the number of Americans who were employed increased by 435,000 persons. At the same time, the overall size of the labor force rose by 703,000 persons. Meanwhile, the share of working-age Americans participating in the labor force rose in January (62.9 percent), while the share of working-age Americans with a job was unchanged (59.3 percent).

In January, 9 million Americans were unemployed (5.7 percent). Another 6.8 million individuals worked part time despite preferring full-time positions. An additional 682,000 individuals (not seasonally adjusted) were so discouraged about their job prospects that they had stopped searching for work altogether; those persons were part of a larger population of 2.2 million Americans who were marginally attached to the labor force.

Last month, the unemployment rate was higher for adult male workers than adult female workers (5.3 percent versus 5.1 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (10.3 percent) and Hispanic workers (6.7 percent) than among white ones (4.9 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 18.8 percent.

Additionally, 5.3 percent of all veterans were unemployed, and the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 7.9 percent. At the same time, 11.9 percent of Americans with disabilities were jobless and seeking work. (Both not seasonally adjusted.)

Jobs remained comparatively hard to find in January. Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 11.3 percent. Among unemployed workers, 31.5 percent had been jobless for at least six months, and the average spell of unemployment equaled 32.3 weeks.

In January, the leading cause of unemployment remained a job loss or the completion of a temporary job, which was the reason cited by 47.4 percent of unemployed persons. Another 31.6 percent of unemployed persons were re-entrants to the labor market, while 11.5 percent were new entrants. Voluntary job leavers accounted for the remaining 9.5 percent of the total.

“The January employment report contained a number of positive developments, although annual technical updates to the various data series complicate the process of drawing meaningful conclusions,” observed Quinterno. “Labor market conditions nevertheless remain sub-optimal, with the problems of underemployment and long-term unemployment remaining particularly pronounced. Weak conditions, in turn, are preventing American workers from experiencing robust improvements in their wages and living standards.”