The latest “Prosperity Watch” update from the folks at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center makes clear that if there is any kind of “Carolina Comeback,” it is pretty much bypassing our small towns:
As of September 2015, 22 of the state’s 25 smaller cities and towns known as micropolitan areas continued to have more unemployed people than before September 2007 just before the Great Recession began.
Persistent high numbers of unemployed are occurring even as the unemployment rate declines. This rate drop masks the range of challenges in weak labor markets including insufficient job creation to meet the growing population, declining numbers in the labor force and the resulting failure of wages for the average worker to increase.
For the state’s micropolitan areas with elevated numbers of unemployed, 17 also continued to experience a lower number of employed. Of the three areas where the number of unemployed decline, Mount Airy, Rockingham and Laurinburg, the labor force and number of employed also declined over the period. This demonstrates that a decline in the number of unemployed alone is not sufficient indication of a healthy labor market.
In order to see improvement in the labor markets of micropolitan areas as well as the state, it is important to look for increases in the number of employed, growth or stability in the labor force AND declines in the number of unemployed.