Prosperity Watch Issue 2

Prosperity Watch, Issue 2, No. 3: North Carolina's small cities bear brunt of
continued high unemployment

According to new labor market data from the NC Employment Security Commission, these small cities— defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as “micropolitan regions” consisting of 10,000 to 50,000 people centered around an urban core—have higher unemployment rates than larger cities and the state itself.

Last month, North Carolina’s small cities saw their unemployment rise to an average of 11.6%, significantly outpacing the 10.3% jobless rate in large metropolitan areas and well above the state unemployment rate for June of 9.9%.

Unlike their larger metro cousins, these small cities traditionally suffer from declining industries, workers with skill-sets mismatched with the demands of new industries, and vulnerability to mass layoffs and plant closures. Given these overriding challenges, it is small wonder the recent wave of job losses are hurting small and medium cities more than their metropolitan competitors. As these small cities seek to climb out of their employment downturn, labor market trends are fundamental to the economic development and revitalization of key swaths of the state’s population.

Prosperity Watch, Issue 2, No. 2: North Carolina's Job Deficit Grows in June 2011

Source: Economic Policy Institute analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics for NC Job Watch.

When the recession began in December 2007, North Carolina had 4,171,800 jobs. Since then, North Carolina has experienced 30 months of job loss. North Carolina's employment trough occurred in February, 2010 when the state had 323,000 fewer jobs than it did before the recession started. Now in June, 2011, North Carolina has 301,000 fewer jobs than it did before the lowest stage of the recession.

North Carolina's jobs deficit, or the difference between the number of jobs North Carolina has and the number it needs to regain its pre-recession employment rate, is 495,900. That number includes the 301,000 jobs the state lost plus the 194,900 jobs it needs to keep up with the 4.7% growth in population that North Carolina has experienced in the 42 months since the recession began.

Prosperity Watch, Issue 2, No. 1: Projected Job Growth over the Next Decade Overwhelmingly Will Pay Less Than the Living Income Standard

Source: The North Carolina Commission on Workforce Development, June 2011, State of the North Carolina Workforce, 2011-2020.
As the state recovers from the Great Recession and attempts to close the jobs deficit estimated at 480,000, job creation will be critical. But equally important is that those jobs need to be good-paying jobs if North Carolina families are really to experience a recovery that reduces their economic hardship and provides for greater opportunity.
The 2011 State of the Workforce report that was released in June 2011 includes estimates from Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. (EMSI) regarding the growth in occupations anticipated from 2011 to 2020. 
Comparing the average hourly wages in those occupations to the state’s Living Income Standard in 2010 shows a disturbing trend. The majority of high-growth occupations over the next decade will pay below the Living Income Standard, $22 per hour for a family of four.

Note: The updated Living Income Standard for North Carolina and all 100 counties will be released next week.