Prosperity Watch Issue 18, No. 4: Minority of North Carolina's Employment Concentrated in Growing Industries

Given the state’s persistently high unemployment rate and growing jobs deficit, North Carolina faces a short-term challenge of creating enough job opportunities to match the number of workers seeking employment and the long-term challenge of ensuring this job creation occurs in those industries most likely to experience growth and pay decent wages.  Unfortunately, just one-quarter of the state’s employment base is concentrated in industries that are either growing or poised for growth in the future.  In contrast, the overwhelming majority of the state’s employment is concentrated in industries that are either declining in North Carolina or declining relative to the rest of the nation (see following figure).  This suggests that the state’s employment base is vulnerable to future long-term decline, a troubling trend likely to result in additional vulnerability to large-scale job loss in the future.

As shown in the figure, almost 19% of the state’s workers are employed in Growing and Stable Local Strengths.  These industries are already heavily concentrated in North Carolina compared to the rest of the country, making them a key strength for the state’s employment base.  In terms of long-term trends, these industries have also experienced positive employment growth since 2004, or have seen significant job growth in North Carolina relative to the industries’ job growth in the rest of the country, suggesting that North Carolina has a competitive advantage that bodes well for future growth potential

 According to a report released by the Budget & Tax Center last week, the state has 26 industries that meet this description, with weekly wages ranging from a low of $321 in the forestry industry to a high $1,979 in the spectator sports industry. Government is the largest employer in this category, with 3.4% of the state’s total employment and an average weekly wage of $777.

At the same time, 7% of the state’s workers are employed in industries considered Emerging Local Strengths. These industries are not yet heavily concentrated in North Carolina but have experienced growth in employment within North Carolina in absolute terms since 2004 and relative to the industries’ growth in the rest of the nation. Given the fact that they are not already concentrated in North Carolina but are experiencing faster growth in the state than they are experiencing nationwide, these industries represent an area of significant growth potential for North Carolina. The state has 59 industries that meet this description, with weekly wages ranging from a low of $376 in the tree and nut farming industry to a high of $3,009 in the securities and commodities exchange industry.

These two categories of industries are poised for long-term growth and provide the state with competitive advantage compared to the rest of the nation. For the long-term health and stability of the North Carolina labor market, the state needs to ensure that the percentage of the state’s labor force employed in these sectors needs to grow significantly.