WRAL Investigates

Unemployment rate hides thousands of NC jobless

Posted July 11, 2011
Updated July 14, 2011

— As bleak as North Carolina's official 9.7 percent unemployment rate is, it doesn't completely reflect the number of people struggling to make ends meet and the fragile condition of the state economy, according to experts.

The traditional state and national unemployment numbers are based on household surveys and include only those who are out of work and actively seeking a new job.

Many economists say a more accurate picture can be seen in what the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calls the U-6 number. That includes people so frustrated they gave up an active job search, those scraping by on part-time work because they can't find full-time employment and those in the midst of training for a career change.

"I think it's a much better depiction of our economic health, which is really dire, not only in North Carolina, but across the country," said Jason Jolley, senior research director at the Center For Competitive Economies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Using U-6 figures, North Carolina's unemployment rate would be 17.5 percent – the ninth highest in the U.S. The national jobless figure would be 16.5 percent instead of 9.1 percent.

"It's a little disturbing that nobody knows about the real number," said Cindy Voorhees, among the thousands of out-of-work North Carolinians hidden in the official unemployment rate.

WRAL Investigates Unemployment rate hides thousands of NC jobless

Voorhees lost her graphic design job and exhausted 99 weeks of unemployment benefits while looking for work. She now is taking classes at Wake Technical Community College to get retrained for a job in the biopharmaceutical industry.

"I want to do something important – give back," she said. "When you're not a part of (the workforce), you miss it and you feel like you're not contributing."

Jolley said job creation is at the core of the problem. North Carolina lost about 300,000 jobs during the recession, while tens of thousands of people moved to the state looking for work.

"You're looking at about 80,000 jobs that we need to create each year for the next 10 years to make up for what was lost in the great recession and to keep up with population change," he said.

Despite a slew of job announcements in recent months from new and expanding companies, the state had only 15,168 more people with full-time jobs in May compared with a year earlier.

"That collective conscience we have to create jobs just isn't what it used to be. We're scared," said Jim Kleckley, an economist with East Carolina University. "What we're seeing now is really the structural kind (of unemployment) where the jobs aren't there for the people's training."

Voorhees said that is why she's switching careers so that she will have the training for an industry that is expected to grow in the future.


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  • randall0123a Jul 22, 2011

    Something I haven't seen pointed out - how unemployment works. If you had been with a company long enough when you lost your job, then of course you get unemployment benefits. My GF wound up in this category. She then found a job many told her not to take, as the company owner was a well known piece-of-work. She took the job to try and contribute rather than draw on a failing gvmt budget. The job was worse than even expected, as she was daily treated with utter disrespect, to where she had to finally quit. Of course now my GF no longer qualifies for unemployment. The system is set up almost to deter you from seeking new employment, as least not until your current unemployment runs out - nice, huh? My GF is now also attending WakeTech, and we are struggling on my engineering salary alone, which is just enough to keep our house and food on the table for us and my young son. This economy is a joke. Glad the bankers and executives are getting wealthy off of the rest of us - disgusting.

  • anlashokna Jul 14, 2011

    Yep still unemployed after 3 years. Work in this area is competitive thanks to the rotating job market with the military spouses. I have a BA and am overqualified to be hired for the minimum wage jobs even though I am more than willing to take them. Currently working on joining the military. Not where I expected to be headed at 36 years old. But yes...I have not received any help for over a year and have been scraping by with the help of family. If not for them I would have been on the street after going through my entire savings to stay above water and not default on any bills. So yes...that unemployment number does not reflect those of us who have gone through all help available and are still actively looking for work. Nice of WRAL to point out what most people know...the numbers lie.

  • therighthasnegativepressure Jul 12, 2011

    wow this is exactly why this nation is in the mess it is, what are you all doing to resolve anything in here? what is this football game? The nation is in serious trouble.

    It's pointless for anyone to come into golo. If we all left, there would only be a hand full on the ultra far right that would be here. There are thousands of other local chat opportunities that aren't inhabited by frothing at the mouth fox \ hate radio advocates who ignore the palin and simple truth, the gop was hijacked just like everyone else. It's not worth anyone's time to come in here. Why so we can get attacked for voicing opinions contrary to the right wing nuts that have decided that GOLO is theirs? wow. you can have it ! the only thing these people prove is they have no IQ whatsoever

    Several of the people in here on the right, are actually employees of a FOX network station - wraz.

  • SARCASTICLES Jul 12, 2011

    .......and I don't need a link to prove the GOP ran this country over a cliff between 2000-2008....I was here, I saw it happen. If a plane crashed on your house, would you wait for a link before you'd believe it? Probaaa-bly. Keep on denying and deflecting blame away from your used heroes, but they're still guilty....and Obama will win in 2012 because of it. Most folks ain't buying what the GOP is sellin' no more. ;)

  • SARCASTICLES Jul 12, 2011

    OK, I didn't get the memo on that one, I beg your pardon. FOX "news" broadcasts opinions as facts everyday....but it's a BAD thing when I do it, right? FAR Right. If you think these traitors are ANY kind of real conservative, Neo or NOT, you've got bigger problems than what my opinion is. ;)

  • gunny462 Jul 12, 2011

    "looks like your well of "facts" is fixin' to run dry. ;)

    All we need is only ONE FACT and that's still one more than you progressives LOL

  • onlymy2cents Jul 12, 2011

    FUN FACT!: When cornered, the Neo-CON always retreats to the high moral ground of fake maturity and omnipotentatiosness.

    Fun Fact =Actually that is one's opinion and not factual.

    So it is a Neo-CON's view when both parties are held accountable?
    Since links are in such high demand today on golo, here you go to help refresh your knowledge base on this subject.


  • SARCASTICLES Jul 12, 2011

    SCARY FACT!: The military used to let gunny462 handle explosives. ;)

  • SARCASTICLES Jul 12, 2011

    FUN FACT!: When cornered, the Neo-CON always retreats to the high moral ground of fake maturity and omnipotentatiosness....SEE how they run, frightened by truth, their evil Lord Murdoch on the grill of justice, turning on the spit like the fascist pig he is. Better run, guys....looks like your well of "facts" is fixin' to run dry. ;)

  • gunny462 Jul 12, 2011

    "By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise." SARCASTICLES"

    Fits Obama, you and Chilly to a tee don't it! ;)