MEDIA RELEASE: As job growth stagnates across North Carolina, east lags further behind

RALEIGH (June 22, 2012) – North Carolina’s job creation began to stumble across many of the state’s counties last month, according to newly released data from the Division of Employment Security. Most of the long-term improvements in the employment picture are concentrated in the counties west of I-95 which include the state’s four most populous regions—the Piedmont Triad, the Research Triangle, the Greater Charlotte Region, and Western North Carolina—while the regions in the Eastern part of the state lag behind.

Last month, 76 counties saw their unemployment rates rise along with the unadjusted state average, which climbed from 91% to 9.4% in May. While this is certainly troubling, some of this may be due to seasonal fluctuations in hiring patterns—which local-level data does not account for—and the long-term picture is somewhat better: 88 counties saw their unemployment rates fall over the year.

Nonetheless, these long-term gains are concentrated in only a few areas—the regions to the east have higher unemployment rates and mostly smaller decreases in these rates than the state average and the four regions to the west. While the state’s jobless rate stands at 9.4% in May (unadjusted) and has fallen by 0.9 points since May 2011, the Northeastern region dropped by just 0.4 points to 10.3%, the Southeastern region dropped by 0.5 points to 10.4%, and the Eastern region by 10.9 to 10.0% Over the same period, the Greater Charlotte Region’s unemployment rate dropped by 1.1 points to 9.7%, the Piedmont Triad’s by 1.1 points to 9.5%, the Research Triangle’s by 0.7 points to 8.1% (the state’s lowest jobless rate), and the Western region’s by 0.8 points to 9.5%

“While our short-term labor market trends are certainly troubling, the longer-term concern for North Carolina is the wide disparities in job growth across the state,” said Allan Freyer, Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “The Triangle, Triad, Charlotte, and western regions are experiencing significantly lower unemployment rates than the rest of the state. Perhaps even more importantly, the metros in these four regions alone account for 95 percent of the total job growth in North Carolina’s metro areas since May 2011.”

Looking at the state’s metropolitan areas reinforces this pattern, as metros in the four most populous regions have experienced the lion’s share of the state’s metro-area job growth over the last year:

  • In the Triangle Region, the Raleigh-Cary metro has experienced 29% of the state’s metro job growth, while Durham-Chapel Hill has experienced another 10.4%, for a regional total of 39.4%.
  • In the Greater Charlotte Region, the Charlotte-Gastonia (23.5%) and the Hickory-Morganton metro (2.7%) combine for 23% of the state’s total job growth across all metros.   In the Piedmont Triad, the Greensboro-High Point metro (13.2%), the Winston-Salem metro (6.8%), and the Burlington (2.6%) metro combine for a total of 22.6% of all employment growth.
  • The Asheville metro area—the population center for the Western region—experienced 6.6% of the state’s total metro area job growth in the last year.

Taken together, these four regions account for 95% of all job growth in North Carolina’s metro areas in the last year, meaning that the three eastern regions are accounting for just 5% of the state’s metro job growth. The Southeast, in particular, is struggling, with the state’s highest unemployment rate (10.4%), the smallest gains in the jobless rate over the last year, and perhaps most troubling, big employment losses in the region’s metro areas, including Wilmington, which saw a 2% drop in employment since May 2011.

“It will be critical as North Carolina recovers that all communities are part of that recovery,” said Alexandra Sirota, Director of the BTC. “That means making sure job opportunities are available to get people back to work across the state.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Allan Freyer, Public Policy Analyst, Budget & Tax Center, allan@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2151; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).