More support needed to sustain a stronger recovery and help people reconnect with the labor force

RALEIGH (July 16, 2021) — Hiring appears to have picked up substantially in June, according to new labor market data released Friday, but barriers to employment continue to hamper the recovery. North Carolina remains well shy of pre-pandemic employment levels, in large part due to ongoing hardship created by COVID-19.

“It looks like the American Rescue Plan may have boosted the economy in June, but we’re still a long way from full recovery,” said Patrick McHugh, Research Manager with the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center. “Even after the best month of job creation in a while, we’re still almost 125,000 jobs short of pre-COVID employment levels.”

Click for charts with new labor market data

Economic challenges facing North Carolina include: 

  • Barriers to work hampering the recovery: Survey data show that a range of barriers are making it hard for people to rejoin the labor market. Estimates based on surveys conducted by the U.S. Census between April 14 and July 5 indicate:
    • More than 250,000 North Carolinians cannot work because they are caring for a child.
    • More than 100,000 North Carolinians are concerned about working because of the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19
    • More than 50,000 North Carolinians cannot work because they are sick or caring for someone with COVID-19
    • Nearly 50,000 North Carolinians cannot work because they lack transportation
  • 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 48,000 more North Carolinians reported looking for work in June 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 2020, prior to the start of COVID-19, have occurred in industries like Accommodation and Food Service (-49,100), Health Care and Social Assistance (-23,600), and Arts, Entertainment and Recreation (-10,500).

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

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 or 919-856-2183; or Mel Umbarger, Budget & Tax Center Senior Communications Specialist, at