New numbers cause concern that NC economy is lagging and could slip backwards

In case you missed it earlier this week, the latest assessment from experts at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center indicates that care must be taken to prevent a state economic decline. This is from a release entitled “Worrying economic trends for N.C. persist in October labor market numbers”:

Uninspiring unemployment and labor market participation rates from October’s state labor market release suggest that the state’s economy is lagging and is in danger of slipping backwards in the coming months. The number of people looking for work in the state has exceeded 200,000 and is 20,000 more than October of 2018. The state unemployment rate of 4 percent is higher than the national average (3.6 percent) and is also higher than it was one year ago. These trends reinforce concerns that a slowing economy will exacerbate an incomplete recovery, leaving many North Carolinians in the cold.

Click for more labor market data charts

“As we approach the end of the year, it is obvious that North Carolina’s economy is not working for all,” said William Munn, Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “Worrying unemployment rate trends and slowing employment growth is evidence that 2019 is shaping up to be another year of lost opportunity and evasive prosperity, book-ending a decade of an incomplete recovery.”

Highlights from the October labor market release include:

  • The number of North Carolinians looking for work increased: There are more than 200,000 North Carolinians looking for work throughout the state, an increase of nearly 20,000 from October of last year. Comparatively speaking, the national number of unemployed has decreased over the past 12 months, from 6,112,000 to 5,855,000 . While this is an indication of a state labor market absorbing more eligible workers into the labor force compared to the nation, it still signals an economy unprepared for growth.
  • The North Carolina unemployment rate is higher than national average: Last month’s state unemployment rate of 4 percent is higher than it was 12 months ago at 3.7 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate of 3.6 percent represents an increase from last month, and while the state’s rate slid, there is still a notable gap.
  • The share of North Carolinians with a job has decreased since the Great Recession: Even as the number of workers in the state’s civilian labor force has grown over the past decade, the percentage of those with jobs has shrunk. In December of 2007, the state’s labor force numbered 4,530,400, and the share of employment was 62.1 percent. Last month, labor market data revealed that the state’s labor force increased to 5,128,600, but the percentage of North Carolinians with jobs slipped to 59.4 percent.

For data charts, visit NCJustice.org/LaborMarket.

For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out the Budget & Tax Center’s weekly Prosperity Watch report.

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