RALEIGH (July 21, 2015) — The June labor market data released this morning show North Carolina slipping behind the nation in a few significant ways.

First, wages in North Carolina are not growing as fast as the nation, and are actually down slightly compared to a year ago. Second, the unemployment rate in North Carolina has gone up over the last six months while unemployment nationwide has fallen.

“When the economy is really humming, employers have to start paying better wages, but that’s not happening yet in North Carolina,” said Patrick McHugh, economic analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “With almost 30,000 more North Carolinians looking for work in June than at the start of 2015, it’s sadly not a surprise to see that the average weekly paycheck shrank compared to this time last year.”

Other highlights of the June data include:

  • Growing wage gap between North Carolina workers and the national average: The average weekly paycheck came in at $761.42 in June, which is actually less than it was in June 2014. Factoring in inflation, the real buying power of wages in North Carolina is shrinking. Wages nationwide have grown faster than inflation over the last year. All told, this means that the average weekly North Carolina paycheck is now almost $100 less than the national average.
  • Still more North Carolinians out of work than before the Great Recession: Even though the ranks of the unemployed have declined over the past year, there are still more than 277,000 North Carolinians looking for work, approximately 64,000 more than before the Great Recession.
  • Percent of North Carolinians employed still near historic lows: June numbers showed 57.8 percent of North Carolinians were employed. This leaves North Carolina well below the level of employment that was commonplace before the Great Recession. In the mid-2000s, employment levels reached a peak of about 63 percent. The percent of North Carolinians with a job remains below the national average, as it has been since the Great Recession.
  • Labor force participation grows, but still below pre-recession norms: The size of the labor force, a measure of people who are employed or are looking for work, grew by 3 percent over the past year. While this is a good sign that some workers are returning to the labor force, the share of North Carolinians who are employed or looking for work is still lower than before the Great Recession.
  • US making much more progress in reducing unemployment than North Carolina: Even while the state continues to add jobs, growth is not enough to push unemployment below the 5 percent threshold that most economists see as the top-end of a healthy labor market. While the national unemployment rate has come down over the last six months, the ranks of the unemployed have grown here in North Carolina.

For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out a recent report on building an innovation economy for all and the Budget & Tax Center’s weekly Prosperity Watch platform.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Patrick McHugh, patrick.mchugh@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2183.