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Labor market figures show North Carolina’s recovery remains slow and incomplete

RALEIGH (June 23, 2021) — State labor market data for May released today continued a trend of slow growth and people being forced out of the labor market. Even as employers look to staff up, barriers like transportation, child care, and training continue to prevent people who want to work from finding stable employment.

“Economic recovery is a human process, which takes time and support,” said Patrick McHugh, Research Manager with the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center. “More people are looking for work than before COVID-19 and over 40,000 people have been forced out of the labor market since January, so we need to help people who lost jobs and are trying to build post-pandemic careers.”

Click for charts with new labor market data

Economic challenges facing North Carolina include: 

  • Not enough job growth to get people back to work: After losing over 5,000 jobs in April, and only adding 1,400 in May, North Carolina has recovered fewer than 26,000 jobs since the start of 2021. With employment nearly 165,000 jobs short of the pre-pandemic levels, the incredibly slow pace of job growth over the past several months could make for a very long recovery.
  • More North Carolinians still looking for work: While the headline unemployment rate has declined in recent months, the recovery still has not created enough jobs for everyone who wants to work. Roughly 56,000 more North Carolinians reported looking for work in May than before the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Job losses are heavily concentrated in some industries, particularly among the worst-paid workers: The COVID-19 recession has devastated workers in some industries, while others have almost fully recovered. The largest persistent job losses since February of last year have occurred in industries like Accommodation and Food Service (-53,700), Government (-46,700), Health Care and Social Assistance (-22,900), and Arts, Entertainment and Recreation (-14,000).

For charts showing the most recent labor data and COVID-19 job data, visit the Budget & Tax Center’s Labor Market page at www.ncjustice.org/labormarket.

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

The nonpartisan Budget & Tax Center is a project of the NC Justice Center, which works to eliminate poverty in North Carolina by ensuring every household in the state has access to the resources, services and fair treatment it needs to achieve economic security. 

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