Raleigh, N.C. — The recession in 2008 and 2009 hurt employment levels in North Carolina, but the state’s current unemployment rate near double digits reflects more than a decade of stagnant job creation. North Carolina has fewer jobs now than in 1999, according to a new report from consulting firm South By North Strategies.
Even though North Carolina’s population has soared over the past 12 years, the state has 11,700 fewer jobs, the firm says.
“While the image of North Carolina as a state growing rapidly in population and jobs was very much an accurate one in the 1990s, it no longer holds,” the report notes. “In fact, North Carolina has not recorded any net job growth over the past 12 years, despite adding residents.”
In 2011, North Carolina added 19,600 jobs. The private sector created 29,400 positions, but the public sector cut 9,800 jobs, the report says.
"The great recession hit, and the bottom fell out," said Jason Jolley, a senior research director and assistant professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Two-thirds to three-quarters of the economy is based on consumer spending, and consumers don't have money. Interest rates are historically low, but consumers don't have access to credit. They're tapped out."
Jolley predicts that North Carolina will see persistent unemployment at about 9 to 10 percent.
David Schulz, who owns Schulz Iron Works in Raleigh, says "the picture is bleak right now" at his company. Since 2007, he has laid off 20 employees, which is more than 40 percent of his workforce. Five of the employees were laid off this week, he said.
"I could cry right now. It hurts," Schulz said. "This is our 13th year in business. We're worse off than when we started in '99. We're on the brink of going under. I don't know what else to do."
Schulz said he and his employees are hoping for any kind of economic spark to help business.