MEDIA RELEASE: State unemployment picture improves, but western and eastern North Carolina fall behind

RALEIGH (April 5, 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, but most of the long-term improvements in the joblessness picture are concentrated in the state’s three largest regions—the Piedmont Triad, the Research Triangle, and the Greater Charlotte Region—while the remaining, less populous and urbanized regions lag behind.

The state’s jobs picture is clearly improving, as 81 counties saw their unemployment rates drop in February, and more importantly, 82 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.

Similarly, these same more populous regions have experienced significantly bigger drops in their unemployment rates over the last year—the Charlotte region’s jobless rate dropped from by 1.2 points from 11.9 percent in February 2011 to this February’s level of 10.7 percent (the greatest improvement in the state); the Triad’s dropped by 1.1 points, and the Triangle dropped by 0.4 points. At the same time, the rest of the state experienced significantly smaller drops in the unemployment rate since February. The Northeast dropped by 0.2 points, the East by 0.4 points, and the Southeast by 0.3. In one bright spot, despite its higher overall unemployment rate, the West experienced better improvement than the other more rural counties, dropping 0.5 points from 13 percent to 12.5 in the past year.

“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, and Charlotte 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 92 percent of the total private sector job growth in North Carolina’s metro areas since February 2011.”

Looking at the state’s metropolitan areas reinforces this pattern, as metros in the three most populous regions have experienced the lion’s share of the state’s metro-area private sector job growth over the last year. In the Triangle Region, the Raleigh-Cary metro has experienced 36.5% of the state’s metro private sector job growth, while Durham-Chapel Hill has experienced another 5.3%, for a regional total of 42%. In the Greater Charlotte Region, the Charlotte-Gastonia (27.6%) and the Hickory-Morganton metro (2.6%) combine for 30% of the state’s total private sector job growth across all metros.   And in the Piedmont Triad, the Greensboro-High Point metro (14.9%), the Winston-Salem metro (4.3%), and the Burlington (0.7%) metro combine for a total of 20% of all private sector employment growth. Taken together, these three regions account for 92% of all private sector 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, 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