11.06.2014 Our Projects, Policy Points

Using & Communicating Labor Market Information

In October 2014, South by North Strategies, Ltd. facilitated two 90-minute professional development sessions on ways of using and communicating regional labor market information. The sessions were delivered as part of the 2014 North Carolina Workforce Development Partnership Conference, an annual gathering of approximately 900 workforce development professional organized by the North Carolina Workforce Development Training Center.

The sessions took place on October 16, 2014 in Greensboro and were based on material covered in the book “Running The Numbers: A Practical Guide to Regional Economic and Social Analysis” (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2014).

11.06.2014 Our Projects, Policy Points

North Carolina’s Rural Labor Market & “The Great Recession”

In October 2014, John Quinterno of South by North Strategies, Ltd. presented on key economic changes that have occurred to North Carolina’s rural communities as a result of “The Great Recession.” The remarks were delivered to the approximately 400 participants in the 2014 North Carolina Rural Assembly, an event held in Raleigh and organized by the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, a statewide nonprofit organization.

Among other topics, Quinterno discussed how the the recession spared no community in North Carolina, how the recession occurred alongside the increased “metropolitinization” of the state’s economy, how different types of non-metro communities have fared,  and how the recession has exacerbated certain workforce challenges in rural communities. A copy of the presentation is available online and also is embedded below.

Other presenters discussed demographic changes in rural North Carolina, the outlook for the rural economy, and promising community development models and practices. All of those presentations also are available online.

11.06.2014 Policy Points

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 10/18/14

For the benefit week ending on October 18, 2014, North Carolinians filed some 5,005 initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 43,406 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 5,043 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 43,613 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 6,238, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 70,675.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.92 million versus 3.85 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 6.5 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 is at 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 (5,043) was 19.2 percent lower than the figure recorded one year ago (6,238), while the average number of continuing claims was 38.3 percent lower (43,613 versus 70,675). Given the modest rate of job growth that has occurred in North Carolina over the past year, such large declines likely are products of changes to unemployment insurance laws rather than improvements in underlying economic conditions.

10.31.2014 Policy Points

NC Unemployment Claims: Week Of 10/11/14

For the benefit week ending on October 11, 2014, North Carolinians filed some 5,121 initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 43,577 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 4,945 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 43,895 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 6,170, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 71,342.

In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.91 million versus 3.84 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 6.5 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 is at 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 (4,945) was 19.9 percent lower than the figure recorded one year ago (6,170), while the average number of continuing claims was 38.5 percent lower (43,895 versus 71,342). Given the modest rate of job growth that has occurred in North Carolina over the past year, such large declines likely are products of changes to unemployment insurance laws rather than improvements in underlying economic conditions.

10.29.2014 News Releases, Policy Points

Local Unemployment Rates Fall Across North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, NC (October 29, 2014) – Between September 2013 and September 2014, unemployment rates fell in 98 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in all 14 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Yet over the same period, the size of the local labor force shrank in 78 counties and in 9 metro areas.

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

“Local unemployment rates have fallen steadily across much 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. “At the same time, the declines do not alter the fact that unemployment remains a serious problem. In fact, 34 counties and 4 metro areas had unemployment rates in September 2014 that exceeded those posted in September 2008.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 0.1 percent more payroll jobs (+2,000). In September, the state gained 14,000 more jobs than it lost (+0.3 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 6,015 jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 330,800 positions (+8.6 percent).

Between August and September 2014, local unemployment rates decreased in 98 of the state’s 100 counties, increased in one county, and held constant in one county. Individual county rates in September ranged from 4.2 percent in Currituck County to 12.2 percent in Graham County. Overall, 3 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 60 counties posted rates between 6.1 and 9.9 percent.

“Non-metropolitan labor markets continue to lag behind metropolitan ones,” noted Quinterno. “In September, 6.8 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 5.8 percent of the metro labor force. Compared to December 2007, the non-metro labor force now has 5.1 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 15.4 percent larger. Over that time, the size of the non-metro labor force has fallen by 3.9 percent. In fact, North Carolina’s total labor force in September would have been 1.1 percent larger if the size of the non-metropolitan labor force had held steady, all else being equal”

Between August and September, unemployment rates fell in all of the state’s 14 metro areas. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (8.8 percent), followed by Fayetteville (7.1 percent) and Goldsboro, Jacksonville, and Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (all at 6.5 percent). Asheville had the lowest unemployment rate (4.6 percent), followed by Durham-Chapel Hill (4.9 percent) and Raleigh-Cary (5 percent).

Compared to September 2013, unemployment rates in September 2014 were lower in 98 counties and all 14 metro areas. Over the year, however, labor force sizes decreased in 78 counties and in 9 metros. And the statewide labor force (seasonally adjusted) was 0.7 percent smaller (-31,038 individuals) in September 2014 than it was in September 2013.

Among metros, Rocky Mount’s labor force contracted at the fastest rate (-2.9 percent) over the course of the year, followed by Fayetteville (-2.3 percent) and Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir (-1.9 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 72.3 percent of the state’s labor force, with 51.1 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. Collectively, employment in the three metro regions has risen by 6.2 percent since December 2007, and the combined unemployment rate in September totaled 5.6 percent, as compared to 6 percent in September 2008. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest unemployment rate (5.1 percent), followed by Charlotte (6.2 percent) and the Piedmont Triad (6.1percent).

The local employment report for September also provided insights into the effects of the extensive changes to the state’s system of unemployment insurance implemented in 2013. Last month, the number of regular unemployment insurance initial claims filed in North Carolina totaled 21,023, down from the 26,051 initial claims filed a year earlier (-19.3 percent).

Mecklenburg County was home to greatest number of regular initial claims (2,517), followed by Wake (1,767), Guilford (1,106), Cumberland (786), and Forsyth (698) counties.

In September 2014, North Carolinians received a (nominal) total of $36.3 million in regular state-funded and federal unemployment insurance compensation, down from the (nominal) $80.4 million received in September 2013. This decline (-54.9 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. Between September 2013 and September 2014, the amount of federal unemployment insurance benefits paid to North Carolinians fell by 71.7 percent, dropping to a (nominal) total of $1.3 million from a (nominal) total of $4.6 million. (Note that the US Congress allowed the EUC program to expire at the start of 2014.)

“Even with recent improvements in certain important indicators, many local labor markets—non-metropolitan ones in particular—continue to underperform and have yet to recover from the last recession,” said Quinterno. “The September data were consistent with the basic pattern of slow growth that has characterized the state’s economy for the past 4.5 years.”