As the New Year begins, progress on North Carolina’s job creation over the past year has become a hot topic. Despite superficial improvements in the unemployment rate, the real condition of the state’s labor market is more complicated—and far more troubling—than is often discussed. Perhaps most importantly, the jobs picture has seen very little measurable improvement in 2013—the labor force is shrinking and employment levels remain below the national average. Moreover, employment growth remained anemic over the course of 2013, generating the lowest number of new jobs created of any year since the recession ended in 2009.
Change in employment levels can be measured by two different surveys: the Current Employment Statistics surveys local employers and the Local Area Unemployment Survey tracks individual households. The employer survey counts the total number of jobs in the state based on the place of work—this includes full-time, part-time, and temporary employment, along with people with multiple jobs, which can drive up the total number of jobs recorded in the survey. The household survey measures people—those who are employed and those who are unemployed, along with private household workers, self-employed workers and those who were employed but unpaid in a month.
Both surveys show that the employment picture has not made measurable improvements in 2013. The household survey actually shows a decline in the net employment levels from January to November 2013 of -8,420 persons.
Source: Local Area Unemployment Survey, January to November of given year.
Meanwhile, the employer payroll survey shows positive—but anemic—job creation in 2013, with a net increase of 37,700 in payroll employment from January to November (the most recent period in which data is available). This is the lowest amount of job creation of any year in the official recovery.
Source: Current Employment Statistics, January to November for each year.
North Carolina’s employment level, 71 months after the start of the recession, is still 2 percent below pre-recession levels. If North Carolina’s employment growth annually were to keep at the pace suggested by the 2013 trend in the payroll survey, it would take 13 years to close the state’s job deficit of 478,000.