NC Budget and Tax Center

The Missing Piece in the Labor Market Story

Earlier this month, the Budget & Tax Center released a new indicator of how the state’s labor market is faring– and the results are troubling for the future of our state’s workforce.

The labor market currently has a large number of missing workers, according to an indicator developed by the nonprofit, non-partisan Economic Policy Institute and adapted here for North Carolina.  This indicator estimates the number of men and women who would have been working or seeking work if the Great Recession had never happened and job opportunities had remained strong over the last six years.

These missing workers are not reflected in the U.S. or North Carolina unemployment rate.BTC - Missing Workers March 2014

Nationally, the number of missing workers was 5,290,000 in March 2014.  If these missing workers were looking for work, the unemployment rate would be 9.8 percent rather than the official unemployment rate of 6.7 percent.

An even starker pattern emerges for North Carolina, there were an estimated 246,611 missing workers in our state in March 2014. If these missing workers were looking for work, the unemployment rate would be 11.6 percent rather than the official 6.3 percent for March.

An important reason why these workers remain missing from the labor market is the fundamental lack of available jobs.  The job growth that has occurred over the past year has not been sufficient the need for work among the state’s jobless workers and the result is too many workers missing from the labor market.

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