Fact Check: Has NC caught up on jobs since recession?

Posted November 21, 2014

— Gov. Pat McCrory spiked the economic football Friday, pointing to a dropping unemployment rate and a milestone number in North Carolina's job report. 

"North Carolina has now recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession," McCrory said in a statement. "We will remain focused on long-term job creation because North Carolina will continue to attract people and businesses."

THE QUESTION: Has the state really "recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession."

THE NUMBERS: Spoiler alert – the governor is correct on the numbers, but some context is lacking. 

McCrory's news release goes on to cite the following statistics: "In October, 4,183,900 people (nonfarm, seasonally adjusted) were employed in the state, which exceeds the pre-recession high of 4,174,500 in February 2008. North Carolina experienced 24 months of continuous employment decline until the number of people employed bottomed out at 3,839,200 in February 2013."

NC Nonfarm Payroll Regarding the numbers, McCrory correctly cites federal payroll survey data, which reflects the number of employees employers in the state say they have. The same became true a few months ago for employment as measured by a household survey, which asks people whether they are employed.

THE PESKY CONTEXT: While this may be a milestone moment for the state, economists say it's important to keep in mind which milestone. 

"I'm imagining a marathon, and you've finally just crossed the starting line," said Tara Sinclair, an associate professor of economics at George Washington University and chief economist for job-search site Indeed.com. 

North Carolina is lagging the nation on this particular economic recovery indicator. The U.S. economy as a whole surpassed its pre-recession job total in May

The bigger question, Sinclair said, is what would the job total have been if it did not get stuck in a recessionary rut.

Without the recession, North Carolina would have created an additional 441,000 jobs beyond where the state is today, said John Quinterno, principal with South by North Strategies.

"The problem with that statistic is it doesn't account for any population change over the past seven years," Quinterno said of the payroll jobs number. 

According to the census, North Carolina's population grew from 9.3 million in 2008 to 9.9 million in 2013. That means more people are competing for the same number of jobs, although presumably some of that population growth was driven by retirees and children who wouldn't be seeking employment. 

A few other numbers help get at that population-to-employment ratio question. For example, as measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 56.5 percent of the state's population is employed today, compared with 61.8 percent in February 2008. 

Put another way, North Carolina's unemployment rate fell to a seasonally adjusted 6.3 percent in October, far lower than the 11.3 percent high it hit in January 2010 but not quite back to the 5.1 percent it was hovering around in January-February 2008. Also, that number doesn't take into account people who would like to work but have given up looking for jobs.

At North Carolina's current pace of job creation, Quinterno said, it will take the state six years to create enough jobs so that the state will have truly caught up to its pre-recession pace. 

"Over the first 10 months of the year, payroll employment in North Carolina expanded by 1.9 percent. The comparable rate in 2013 was 2 percent, and in 2012, the comparable rate was 1.6 percent. These rates are consistent with a sluggish recovery," Quinterno said. 

Fact Check GreenTHE CALL: McCrory has his numbers right by and large. While views may differ on how good that news actually might be, we give his statement a green light. It's certainly a good thing that the state has reached this milestone, but it will be a while before North Carolina reaches its pre-recession level of economic vigor.


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  • veyor Dec 1, 2014

    Our small company laid off 10 people in 2008. One has been hired back.

  • greenfeet Nov 27, 2014

    WRAL can you report the sum of all employees salaries for both 2008 and 2014?

  • Macan Abbot Nov 26, 2014
    user avatar

    Where WRAL in their "Fact Checking" resolve during the Easly and GovBev admins? Has anyone looked into the federal allegations hanging over Bev's head to make her not run for re-election to avoid prison?

  • tran Nov 26, 2014

    The quantity of jobs may have recovered but it's likely that most of the recovered jobs are of lesser quality.

  • kilnntime Nov 24, 2014

    Apparently there number of people looking for jobs has gone down. I see signs most everywhere that say now hiring and have been seeing them for a long time. When going to Walmart I have to believe they are hiring everyone breathing that applies because they have an abundance of incompetent people working there. I also noticed fast food has a lot of people who can not do basic math or just simply do not understand what each coin is valued at looking at the change I have been given at the drive thru.

  • TheCape Nov 24, 2014

    View quoted thread

    What do you mean? I looked up the bill, but cannot get a clear answer.

  • Danny22 Nov 24, 2014

    Anybody who knows small and business people knows there is no way to catch up because of Obama, EPA, taxes, and all the new illegals Obama is bringing in.

  • miseem Nov 24, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Seems like anti-McCrory comments are not allowed either. My comment from Friday was never posted. The gist being that these WRAL fact checkers seem to bend over backwards to give green lights to GOP assertions. Despite most of their article containing statements describing how the assertions really are not accurately describing the situation. In this case, that unemployment is still at a higher percentage. Despite legislative action that kicks people off the roles earlier. And that a lower number of people in NC are now working. And that since 2008, the population of NC has increased significantly. Making those total jobs numbers continue to look weak. And despite all of these comments by the fact checkers, they still give total approval of the statement. Sort of like bragging that the ship has stopped sinking and is in fact sitting higher in the water, while omitting it is because it is grounded on the beach and the tide is out.

  • Tom Boswell Nov 24, 2014
    user avatar

    I like the post that read something like this " I do not believe these tremendous drops in the unemployment rate or the U6 rate since Republicans took over because my brother-in-law works with someone who's second cousin's daughter knows someone who can not find work".

  • checkthegatenc Nov 23, 2014

    Because many companies in the state have been chopping up ONE JOB into SEVERAL JOBS so that they don't have to pay benefits!

    John works a 40 hour week at the widget factory.
    Sue works a 40 hour week at the cog plant.

    The companies employing John and Sue realize that they are now required to provide benefits for workers who clock in over 30 hours a week. To save money, both companies cut their employee hours in half and advertise for a new employee to take the remaining hours.

    John and Sue can't live off of 20 hours a week and are forced to look for another part time job. Lucky, John picks up an additional 20 hours at Sue's factory...and...Sue picks up an additional 20 hours at John's factory.

    2 North Carolina jobs just became 4! Wow, what growth and recovery!

    Now both employees have all their hours back but must spend more on gas and no longer qualify for benefits!