As policy makers debate reforming the state’s unemployment insurance system, the central reality for North Carolina’s workforce is the absence of available jobs. Along with an unemployment rate that remains stubbornly stuck over 9 percent, the full scope of this policy challenge is best captured in the state’s jobs deficit—the number of jobs the state needs to create to replace those lost to the 2007-2009 economic downturn and keep up with population growth. In the month of October, this jobs deficit grew to 550,600, up from 546,000 in April and up from 530,600 at the beginning of the year, suggesting that the pace of job creation is simply insufficient to meet the demands of North Carolina’s workforce.
At a time when there are 2.6 workers for every available job opening across the Southeast (a rate that would not be markedly different in North Carolina), the growing jobs deficit reinforces the lack of employment opportunities as the fundamental driver behind the struggling labor market. In essence, there are just too many unemployed workers chasing too few job openings.