Prosperity Watch Issue 40, No. 2: Number of Jobless Workers Continue to Outpace Job Openings

The primary challenge in North Carolina’s labor market is the persistent lack of jobs.  Despite claims that North Carolina is creating jobs and is on the comeback, the challenge remains that there are still too few jobs available for a growing working age population.

In June, the monthly jobs report for North Carolina shows that the state not only faces a significant job deficit, the state still has not reached pre-recession job numbers.  The state still needs 48,000 jobs to just get back to the 4.2 million jobs that were in the state in December 2007.  The problem with not getting back to pre-recession employment levels is compounded by the state’s population growth of 10.5 percent.  The state therefore not only needs to replace the jobs lost but keep up with that growth—in the absence of significant job creation the state faces a jobs deficit of 485,500 as of June 2014. 

Each month the state will need to create at least 18,000 jobs to reach pre-recession employment levels in three years.  Said another way, under the current annual job creation rate, it will take North Carolina seven years to close the jobs deficit.

Importantly, these are state-level figures and mask the uneven recovery being experienced in communities across North Carolina.  Each month, the Budget & Tax Center posts county-level labor market data to provide information about key labor market indicators.  One such indicator created by the North Carolina Department of Commerce provides an estimate of just how significant the gap is between the number of jobless workers and the opportunities for work at the county level.  The ratio of jobless workers to job openings is now produced monthly and measures the number of job openings posted on-line relative to the number of unemployed workers reported in a given month.  The ratio ranges from a low of 0.51 jobless workers per job opening in Durham County to a high of 10.6 jobless workers per job openings in Camden County. 

There are 40 counties in North Carolina doing worse than the Southern regional average of 3 jobless workers for every one job opening; thirteen counties have 5 or more jobless workers per job opening.  For the latter figure, this means that if every job listed in the county was filled there would still be four jobless workers.

The reality is that for too many communities there are too few jobs for those who want to work.

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