MEDIA RELEASE: State unemployment picture improves, but eastern North Carolina falls behind

RALEIGH (April 27, 2012) – North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped across most of North Carolina’s counties last month, according to newly released data from the Division of Employment Security. However, most of the long-term improvements in the joblessness 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.

The state’s jobs picture is clearly improving, as 98 counties saw their unemployment rates drop in March, and more importantly, 85 counties saw unemployment go down over the last year, according to numbers not adjusted to reflect seasonal hiring patterns. Given these seasonal fluctuations, year-over-year comparisons are the most useful for making comparisons over time.

The regions to the east have higher unemployment rates and significantly smaller decreases in these rates than the state average and the four regions to the west. While the state’s jobless rate stands at 9.6% (unadjusted) and fell by 0.8 points since March 2011, the Northeastern region dropped by just 0.2 points to 11.5%, the Southeastern region dropped by 0.4 points to 10.5%, and the Eastern region by 0.5 to 10.2% 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 9.6%, the Research Triangle’s by 0.5 points to 8.2% (the state’s lowest jobless rate), and the Western region’s by 0.8 points to 10.1%.

“We are seeing good news in North Carolina’s local labor markets, but our most populous regions regions are clearly doing the best,” said Allan Freyer, Policy Analyst with the North Carolina Budget & Tax 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 three regions alone account for 91 percent of the total job growth in North Carolina’s metro areas since March 2011.”

Looking at the state’s metropolitan areas reinforces this pattern, as metro areas in the three 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 27.4% of the state’s metro job growth, while Durham-Chapel Hill has experienced another 10%, for a regional total of 37.4%.
  • In the Greater Charlotte Region, the Charlotte-Gastonia (21.2%) and the Hickory-Morganton metro (1.8%) combine for 23% of the state’s total job growth across all metros. In the Piedmont Triad, the Greensboro-High Point metro (13%), the Winston-Salem metro (7%), and the Burlington (2.3%) metro combine for a total of 22.3% of all employment growth.
  • At the same time, the Asheville metro area—the population center for the Western region—experienced 8.3% of the state’s total metro area job growth in the last year.

Taken together, these three regions account for 91% of all job growth in North Carolina’s metro areas in the last year.

“It will be critical as North Carolina recovers that all communities are part of that recovery,” said Alexandra Sirota, Director of the Budget and Tax Center, “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, BTC, allan@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2151; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).