RALEIGH (April 29, 2020) — Local labor market data for March only capture the first few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak in North Carolina, but even that first wave of consequences was dire.

“This is an unprecedented economic collapse, and it demands equally unprecedented response by federal, state, and local governments so North Carolinians can physically survive and financially recover,” said Patrick McHugh, Senior Economic Analyst with the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center. “The March labor market figures only capture the very beginning of the economic fallout and we still saw a larger loss of jobs than any month during the Great Recession. Just as with the last downturn, some of the communities with the least economic cushion are getting hit the hardest.”

For daily updates on the number of Unemployment Insurance claims and ongoing analysis of the economic impact of COVID-19, visit NCJustice.org/labormarket.

Economic challenges facing North Carolina include:

  • Many communities that never recovered from the Great Recession are getting hit the worst: Many of the communities most severely impacted by the Great Recession are suffering the worst effects from COVID-19. In raw numbers, the largest losses were in metropolitan counties, but many of the counties recording the largest percentage drop in employment were in parts of the state with longstanding challenges accessing economic opportunity, like parts of eastern North Carolina and rural mountain communities. Counties where working remotely is difficult, depend heavily on tourism, and where low-income jobs in retail and food service account for the largest share of work opportunities experienced some of the most dramatic initial employment declines due to COVID-19.
  • Unprecedented spike in Unemployment Insurance claims since the start of the outbreak in North Carolina: The COVID-19 pandemic created the fastest mass loss of jobs in North Carolina on record. Between March 16 when the economic consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak started in earnest and April 28, more than 905,000 North Carolinians filed Unemployment Insurance claims.
  • Headline unemployment rate doesn’t capture the extent of job losses: Counties across North Carolina recorded the largest one-month job loss on record, but most of those people left the labor force entirely rather than be counted as officially unemployed. Many people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic cannot actively look for work because they are sick, caring for family members, or work in industries that have cannot safely operate during the pandemic. As such, Unemployment Insurance claims and the share of jobs lost provide more accurate pictures of how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting local communities.

For charts showing the most recent labor data, including the context of COVID-19 effects, visit the Budget & Tax Center’s Labor Market page at NCJustice.org/labormarket.

For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out the Budget & Tax Center’s Prosperity Watch report.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT Patrick McHugh, Budget & Tax Center Senior Economic Analyst, at Patrick.McHugh@ncjustice.org or 919-856-2183; or Mel Umbarger, Senior Communications Specialist, at mel@ncjustice.org.

The Budget and Tax Center conducts non-partisan analysis of state budget and tax policy and monitors economic conditions in the state. We produce timely and accessible research that contributes to policy discussions and public debate, with the goal of building a broader understanding of the role of policy in supporting economic opportunity for all.