The latest from analysts at the N.C. Justice Center:

July Jobs Figures Show NC Falling Behind the Nation

RALEIGH (August 21, 2015) — The July labor market data released this morning show North Carolina continues to lag behind the nation in a few vital ways.
Wages in North Carolina are not growing as fast as the nation, and are actually down slightly compared to a year ago. Furthermore, the unemployment rate in North Carolina has gone up over the last six months while unemployment nationwide has fallen.

“North Carolina’s economy remains far from its position prior to the recession,” said Patrick McHugh, economic analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “This reality is reflected in wage levels and a labor force participation rate that have yet to reach their pre-recession levels.”
Highlights of the July data include:

• Growing wage gap between North Carolina workers and the national average: For North Carolina, the average weekly paycheck came in at $763.49 in June. When factoring in inflation, the real buying power of wages in North Carolina remains well below pre-recession levels. Wages nationwide have grown faster than inflation over the last year. All told, this means that the average weekly North Carolina paycheck is now $101 less than the national average.
• Still more North Carolinians out of work than before the Great Recession: Even though the ranks of the unemployed have declined over the past year, there are still nearly 280,000 North Carolinians looking for work, approximately 64,000 more than before the Great Recession.
• Percent of North Carolinians employed still near historic lows: July numbers showed 57.6 percent of North Carolinians were employed. This leaves North Carolina well below the level of employment that was commonplace before the Great Recession. In the mid-2000s, employment levels reached a peak of about 63 percent. The percent of North Carolinians with a job remains below the national average, as it has been since the Great Recession.
• Labor force participation grows, but still below pre-recession norms: The size of the labor force, a measure of people who are employed or are looking for work, grew by just under 3 percent over the year. While this is a good sign that some workers are returning to the labor force, the share of North Carolinians who are employed or looking for work is still lower than before the Great Recession.
• US making much more progress in reducing unemployment than North Carolina: Even while the state continues to add jobs, growth is not enough to push unemployment below the 5 percent threshold that most economists see as the top-end of a healthy labor market. While the national unemployment rate has come down over the last six months, the ranks of the unemployed have grown here in North Carolina.

For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out a recent report on building an innovation economy for all and the Budget & Tax Center’s weekly Prosperity Watch platform.


North Carolina’s unemployment rate shot up in August, as the state’s labor force continues to shrink.

The state had 6.8 percent of its labor force actively looking for jobs in August, an increase from 6.5 percent the prior month, according to the monthly jobs report released by the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division.

August’s unemployment, however, is still a big drop from the 8 percent unemployment rate North Carolina experienced a year ago, in August 2013.

The jobs report (click here to read) also show that the number of employed workers dropped by 28,666 from the prior month to 4.34 million while the state’s overall labor force (which consists of those in jobs and those looking for jobs) dropped by nearly 20,000 to 4,66 million in a month’s time.

Unemployed workers increased by more than 10,000 from July to August, but the 314,962 people looking for work in August. That’s down from a year earlier, when 372,467 North Carolinians were out of work. Read More


June’s jobs numbers are out for North Carolina, showing that the state has held on to its unemployment rate of 6.4 percent for the second straight month.

Jobs-buttonThe national unemployment rate was 6.1 percent for June.

The North Carolina numbers for June released by N.C. Commerce Department show a much lower unemployment rate than a year ago, when unemployment was at 8.3 percent and one of the highest rates in the nation.

This month’s job report (click here to read) also shows the state’s labor pool is still shrinking, with 8,577 less people working in June than May.

Over the last year, the state’s labor force has shrunk by nearly 12,000, while the ranks of unemployed dropped by about 90,000 people, according to North Carolina job numbers.

That difference (a shrinking labor pool corresponding with a much larger drop in the numbers of the unemployed) has lead some economists to attribute North Carolina’s drop in its official unemployment rate not to a healthy economy, but to large numbers of long-term unemployed people dropping out of the workforce completely after last year’s cuts to unemployment benefits.

“There is zero evidence that cutting unemployment benefits in North Carolina did anything to spur job growth,” wrote Washington-based economist Dean Baker in an editorial in the News & Observer earlier this month. “There is much evidence that it led those who saw their benefits end to give up looking for work and to drop out of the labor force.

Read more here:
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Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislative leaders disagree, and say those changes to the unemployment system and North Carolina’s subsequent rejection of federally-funded long-term unemployment help has put North Carolina in a better economic position.

“Yes, there are some people who probably took jobs they didn’t want instead of staying on unemployment,” McCrory said earlier this week in an interview with Charlotte’s WFAE radio program (discussion begins at 35:00).

“By the way, in my career, I’ve taken jobs that I don’t want,” McCrory said.  He added, “but it gets you in the door, it gets you working and it gets you off the government payroll.”

Click here to read the entire release on North Carolina’s jobs report for June.


As Dean Baker notes this morning, the national economic news is encouraging. In addition to the record high Dow Jones average, Baker points out:

“The economy added 288,000 jobs in June, making it the fifth consecutive month in which the economy added over 200,000 jobs. This is the longest stretch of 200,000 plus job growth since before the recession. The job gains were broadly based. Retail was the biggest gainer, adding 40,200 jobs, with professional and technical services adding 30,100 jobs. Manufacturing added 17,000 jobs for the second month in a row.

The news was also positive in the household survey with the unemployment rate falling to 6.1 percent, a new low for the recovery. This was due to people entering the labor force and finding jobs; the employment-to-population ratio rose to 59.0 percent. This is a new high for the recovery, but still 4.0 percentage points below its pre-recession level. Another piece of positive news is that the percentage of people who are unemployed because they voluntarily quit their jobs rose to 9.0 percent, the highest since the collapse of Lehman. This is a sign of growing confidence in the labor market.”

Unfortunately, the economic news is not so encouraging in North Carolina. As Allan Freyer of the Budget and Tax Center pointed out in a news release on Tuesday: Read More


jobseconomyThis is new from the experts at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center:

Labor force decline still driving drop in unemployment for many metro areas

RALEIGH (April 29, 2014) — Despite falling unemployment rates, most of North Carolina’s metro areas are still waiting for meaningful job creation, according to new jobless numbers released by the Division of Employment Security this morning. Nine out of the state’s 14 metros saw weaker job creation over the last year than they did over the same period in previous years. In 7 of 14 of the state’s metro areas, the drop in the unemployment rate between March 2013 and March 2014 was driven by a shrinking labor force and not by large-scale employment growth. Read More