On the evening of November 6, North Carolina’s election debates will be over, but the most critical policy debates of 2013 and 2014 will just be beginning. At the top of the state’s policy agenda will undoubtedly be the state’s struggling economic recovery and persistently high unemployment rate. A symptom of both of these troubling trends is the long-term growth in the state’s jobs deficit—the number of jobs the state needs to create in order to replace the 223,700 jobs lost since the Great Recession began in December 2007 and to keep up with the state’s 8% population growth over the same period.
As seen in the following figure, this jobs deficit continued to grow dramatically even after the formal end of the recession, increasing from almost 377,000 in June 2009 to over 558,000 in September 2012. Even more troubling is the trend over the past 18 months, during which time the jobs deficit has never fallen below 500,000 and has largely sung back and forth between 520,000 and 550,000 jobs. Over this period, the state has experienced short-term improvements in the jobs deficit, notably from December 2010 to March 2011 and from October 2011 to January 2012, but in both cases, these gains were swiftly reversed by more job losses leading to another increase in the jobs deficit. These cycles suggest that the state has failed to promote a sustainable job creation trajectory capable of replacing jobs lost to the recession and meeting the demands of population growth. This is the fundamental challenge facing our newly elected leaders in state government.