Justice Center expert: Don't lose sight of the employment forest through the data trees
RALEIGH (May 22, 2009) -- North Carolina employers eliminated 8,000 payroll positions in April, based on preliminary data released this morning by the Employment Security Commission. This brings the net number of jobs lost in North Carolina since the start of the recession to 222,600.
"April marks the seventh consecutive month in which North Carolina employers eliminated more jobs than they created," says John Quinterno, research associate at the NC Budget & Tax Center. "While many fewer jobs were lost, on net, in April than in recent months, the labor market remains extremely weak."
"The April numbers are less negative than recent reports, but that doesn't alter the fundamental fact that North Carolina's economy simply isn't generating enough jobs to absorb all of the individuals who want and need work," notes Quinterno. "We remain mired in a long, deep, painful recession."
To put today's numbers in perspective, compare payroll employment figure from April 2008 to April 2009. Over the year, the state's employers eliminated, on net, 202,600 jobs. Net losses occurred in virtually every major industry with the greatest numerical declines occurring in manufacturing (-66,900, predominately in durable goods manufacturing); trade, transportation and warehousing (-50,600); professional and business services (-44,200); and construction (-43,200). Relative to payroll sizes, construction employment fell the most, down 18 percent. Losses were offset by hiring in the public sector (+19,400) and education and health services (+14,500).
Job losses have fueled the sharp rise in North Carolina's unemployment rate. In April, 492,785 were unemployed. Over the year, the number of unemployed North Carolinians has nearly doubled while the unemployment rate jumped from 5.7 to 10.8 percent. Over the past years, only two states - Oregon and South Carolina - posted greater increases in their jobless rates than did North Carolina.
"There is a real temptation to lose sight of the employment forest through the April data trees," says Quinterno. "We can't forget that North Carolina has an unemployment rate that is at a modern high and higher than those found in all but five other states."
Moreover, the deteriorating labor market is responsible for much of the budgetary vise in which state lawmakers now find themselves. Severe job losses have increased the demand for vital public services - a fact illustrated by burgeoning enrollments at community college enrollments and growing lines at offices of the Employment Security Commission and county social service agencies - while severely reducing the tax revenues needed to provide those services.
"If state lawmakers insist on balancing the budget solely by reducing spending, they will not only harm the North Carolinians who have turned to public services like community colleges for help, but they also will exacerbate the recession by removing even more demand for goods and services from the economy," comments Quinterno. "The choices made by public leaders over the next few weeks will help determine if the April employment report represents an unemployment peak or a pause on the climb to even higher levels of joblessness."
For More Information, Contact: John Quinterno, 919-622-2392 (mobile).
The NC Budget & Tax Center provides timely, accessible and credible analysis of state and local budget and tax issues with a special focus on the impact on low- and moderate-income North Carolinians.