The Budget & Tax Center released its analysis of the latest N.C. labor market data, which was published on Friday. Patrick McHugh, Senior Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center, points to the data as a sign that North Carolina’s economy has been stumbling this year. According to his analysis:
Economic challenges facing North Carolina include:
- Job growth has slowed in 2019: Employment growth in 2019 has slowed across the country, and the drop-off compared to the strongest periods of expansion since the Great Recession has been particularly dramatic here in North Carolina. Between 2014 and 2016, employment growth in North Carolina regularly exceeded 2 percent a year, still somewhat modest by historical standards, but significantly more robust than what we’ve seen this year. Annual job growth has hovered around 1.5 percent throughout all of 2019, roughly half of the most recent high point of growth set in February 2015. In raw job terms, the first nine months of North Carolina were less productive than several years during the current economic expansion. North Carolina added 45,800 jobs between January and September, well off the first nine months of 2014, 2015, and 2016, when the state added over 60,000 during the first nine months of the year.
- Number of unemployed North Carolinians has increased in 2019: The number of North Carolinians looking for work has increased during 2019, reversing a long trend of shrinking unemployment rolls. Roughly 17,400 more North Carolinians were looking for work in September than in January of this year, even while the number of job-seekers nationwide declined by over 760,000 over the same period.
- North Carolina’s unemployment rate is notably higher than the nation: With slowing growth and an increasing number of people looking for work, North Carolina’s unemployment rate has increased during 2019. After largely mirroring the national rate throughout most of 2017 and 2018, North Carolina’s headline unemployment rate is now notably higher than the national average. North Carolina’s unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent in September compared to a national rate of 3.5 percent. While the national rate has dropped from 4 percent at the beginning of the year, North Carolina’s headline rate increased from the January reading of 3.8 percent.
- Share of North Carolinians with a job still below pre-recession levels and the national average: North Carolina still has not recovered to the level of employment that existed before the Great Recession. In December 2007, just before the onset of the Great Recession, 62.1 percent of North Carolinians had a job, a level of employment that had been the norm throughout the early 2000s. In September 2019, however, only 59.3 percent of North Carolinians were employed.