RALEIGH (March 17, 2015) – North Carolina’s unemployment rate was unchanged in January 2015, holding at 5.4 percent. This leaves North Carolina treading water, trying to stay afloat in the midst of an incomplete recovery.

“There are still more people looking for a job, and an hour’s work pays for less than before the Great Recession,” said Patrick McHugh, economic analyst with the Budget & Tax Center. “Bottom line, we have not even gotten back to where we were in 2007, let alone built a foundation for future prosperity.”

The January labor market data show that North Carolina has made gains since this time last year, but not enough to achieve anything close to a full economic recovery:

  • Unemployment remains elevated: The headline unemployment rate for January 2015 held at 5.4 percent, still well above the norm for the years leading up to the recession.
  • US employment growth faster than NC: From January 2014 to January 2015, total North Carolina employment increased by 1.5 percent, falling short of the national mark of 2.1 percent.

North Carolina has lost ground in a variety of ways since the start of the Great Recession, according to a recent study from the Budget & Tax Center:

  • Decrease in level of employment: Before the Great Recession, more than 60 percent of North Carolinians had a job, putting the state ahead of the national average. Today, a smaller share of North Carolinians have a job than before the recession and the state has been below the national average for more than six years.
  • Wages losing ground: The average hourly wage in North Carolina has failed to keep up with inflation, and has fallen farther behind the national average over the last seven years. Adjusting for inflation, the average hourly wage lost roughly 40 cents in value, meaning that peoples’ paychecks do not go as far today as they did before the recession.
  • Growth without prosperity: Declining North Carolina wages are particularly troubling given that business output has actually surged since 2007. While wages have lost value, total gross state product (adjusted for inflation) increased by 18.5 percent from the end of 2007 to the end of 2014.
  • Trading good careers for low-paying jobs: Headline unemployment figures hide the fact that many of the jobs that have been added in recent years pay much less than the jobs that were lost. The average wage for jobs in industries that have increased employment since 2007 is almost $10,000 lower than in industries that have shed workers over the same period.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Patrick McHugh, patrick.mchugh@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2183; Jeff Shaw, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).