Another month, another underwhelming jobs report for North Carolina. The Tar Heel state created fewer jobs and saw a smaller percentage of unemployed workers find employment than the rest of the nation over the last year, according to the February jobs report released by Division of Employment Security this morning.
The numbers tell a clear story: 2013 was a rough year for the state’s labor market. While the state saw its payrolls expand by 65,000 new jobs (1.6 percent) since March 2013, this represents slower job growth than the 1.7 percent rate of job creation in the nation as a whole. Even more troubling, this represents a reversal from the previous year (March 2012 to March 2013), during which North Carolina outpaced the nation in job creation 1.6 percent to 1.5 percent.
Not only did North Carolina underperform the rest of the nation over the last year, the state’s performance in 2013 stacks up poorly compared to its performance in previous years. Over the past year (March 2013-2014), the state created 200 fewer jobs than it did over the same period the year before (March 2012-2013), and only created 100 more jobs than were created from March 2011-2012—hardly signs of an increasing job creation trajectory.
Given the massive jobs losses the state experienced in the Great Recession, the state needs to be creating jobs at a significantly faster rate than the rest of the nation in order to achieve escape velocity for a robust, long-term recovery in the labor market. Unfortunately, far from being a banner era of job creation, the last year was pretty disappointing from pretty much every angle—slower job growth and a falling labor force are evidence of a lagging overall economy.
Although the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent in March, the overwhelming driver for this involves the falling labor force—which dropped by 56,000 last year—not the jobless actually finding work. Only 5 out of every 10 unemployed workers moved into employment last year, while the rest just dropped out of the labor force. This stands in sharp contrast to the national labor force, which grew by almost a full percentage point and saw the overwhelming majority of unemployed workers move into employment.
In order to fully recover from the Great Recession, North Carolina needs to do better at job creation. Part of the problem remains the lack of overall available jobs. There are still three unemployed workers for every one available job opening, suggesting that there are just not enough jobs to fully meet the needs of the unemployed.