The State of Working North Carolina

State of Working NC: African-American labor force resiliency

Each year on Labor Day our State of Working North Carolina report details the economic conditions and trends that face North Carolina’s workers.  This year, in addition to focusing on these conditions and trends today, we also delved deeper how the current lack of jobs and the growth of low-wage jobs will impact the state’s economic future, particularly given demographic trends in the state.

This week’s Prosperity Watch takes a look in particular at the resiliency in the African-American labor force in the context of a shrinking of the state’s labor force and a significant number of North Carolinians who remain missing from the labor force.  Both trends are primarily driven by the lack of jobs and together are holding back the state’s full recovery.  Within these broader trends, however, and despite higher unemployment rates, African-American workers have remained in the labor force at a greater rate than other workers.  From Prosperity Watch:

In the face of high unemployment and labor market outcomes that are pushing African-Americans in particular further behind, an interesting trend has emerged.  In the nation as whole and North Carolina, African-American workers have demonstrated resiliency in their connection to the labor force. The unemployment rate for African-Americans remains much higher relative to whites, growing by 4.6 percentage points from 2007 to 2013 compared to a 2.7 percentage point change over the same period for whites. And yet, African-Americans have been much less likely to leave the labor force altogether despite weak job prospects.  The labor force participation rate changed from 2007 to 2013 for African-Americans by 2.6 percentage points while dropping far more for whites by 4.2 percentage points.

The labor force resiliency of African-American workers is contributing to the persistent difference in unemployment rates between African-Americans and whites.  But on the positive side, when jobs return, it could also position African-American workers for faster re-employment.

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