RALEIGH (March 22, 2019) — Sluggish jobs growth at both the national and state level persisted into February of this year, according to new labor market data released today.
“Job growth over the past two years is down at both the state and local level, but the fall off here in North Carolina is particularly noticeable,” said Patrick McHugh, Senior Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “We were promised that cutting taxes for wealthy people and big corporations would super-charge North Carolina’s economy, but the past two years show that it has been more of a let-down than a lift-up.”
A deeper examination of the labor market figures point to underlying economic challenges facing North Carolina:
- Revised data show that job growth in North Carolina fell off in 2018: Revised labor market figures for last year indicate that employment growth declined markedly during the later half of 2018, a trend that continued through the first two months of this year. As we reported this week, analysis of the revised data show that employment growth has faltered over the past two years, and the growth rate from February of last year to February of 2019 was a very modest 1.4 percent.
- North Carolina falling behind national rate of growth: After several years of posting job growth that usually exceeded the national rate (along with several neighboring states in the Southeast), North Carolina has fallen below the national rate of growth over the past year. National growth between February of 2018 and last month was already modest by historical standards at 1.7 percent, but North Carolina has not even kept pace with that.
- Labor force participation going in the wrong direction: The percentage of working-age North Carolinians who are either employed or looking for work, a measure known as labor force participation, continues to fall. A strong economy generally results in gains in labor force participation as more working age people come back into the labor market, but that is not happening here in North Carolina. The state’s current labor force participation rate of 61 percent is more than two percentage points below the national average and 4.3 percentage points below the rate that North Carolina posted before the Great Recession.
- Share of North Carolinians with a job still below pre-recession levels: North Carolina still has not recovered to the level of employment that existed before the Great Recession. In December of 2007, just before the onset of the Great Recession, 62.1 percent of North Carolinians had a job, a level of employment that had been the norm throughout the early 2000s. In February of this year, however, only 58.7 percent of North Carolinians were employed, virtually identical to where we stood at the beginning of 2017. The depressed level of employment compared to historical levels, and the lack of progress in recent years, shows that the economy is not actually generating enough jobs for everyone that needs one.
For data and graphics on the new labor market release, visit our Labor Market page.
For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out the Budget & Tax Center’s weekly Prosperity Watch report.