Prosperity Watch (Issue 81, No. 3): The slowest recovery in a generation

Dec. 18, 2017

The Great Recession created a deeper hole in North Carolina than any downturn since the Great Depression, and the subsequent recovery has been slower than any growth period in recent memory.

Employment in North Carolina decreased by 7.8 percent during the Great Recession, nearly double the decline we experienced during the 2001 recession and almost four times worse than the job losses set off by the previous two recessions in 1981 and 1990.

Job losses were not just more severe, they kept piling up for a much longer time in the Great Recession than in the four downturns that preceded it. It took almost seven years (82 months) for North Carolina to claw its way back to the number of jobs that existed before the recession. By comparison, the state regained pre-recession job numbers within 54 months of the 2001 recession, and only 22 months in the wake of the 1990 and 1981 recessions.

This lack of robust growth is even more problematic given North Carolina’s expanding population. Total employment in North Carolina is 6.5 percent higher than it was on the eve of the Great Recession, but the state’s population has expanded at more than twice that rate (15.6 percent) over the same period. Had job offerings in North Carolina kept pace with the pace of population growth over the past ten years, we would have roughly 375,000 more jobs today than currently exist. [1]

The pre-recession economic equilibrium has never returned. Even after years of slow job growth, a smaller share of North Carolinians are working today than before the recession, creating new barriers to economic opportunity and security in communities across the state.

[1] Economic Policy Institute Analysis of Current Employment Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, and Current Population Survey.


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