As Obama visits, fewer people work in NC than two years ago

Employment data shows the state's work force actually is smaller and the ranks of the employed have dropped from a year ago. However, the unemployment rate has dropped due primarily to a decline in the number of workers counted.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Employment data shows the state’s work force actually is smaller and the ranks of the employed have dropped from a year ago. However, the unemployment rate has dropped due primarily to a decline in the number of workers counted.

President Obama comes to North Carolina on Monday to talk about jobs, and numbers from the state’s Employment Security Commission document how grim the environment is facing people who are out of work.

Unemployment data for May won’t be released until later this month, but a comparison of data from May 2009, May 2010 and April 2011 shows that job growth has virtually flatlined despite talk of an economic recovery and growth in the national Gross Domestic Product since the height of the recession two years ago.

North Carolina, the nation’s 10th largest state in terms of population, also has the country’s 10th worst jobless rate at 9.7 percent in April.

In fact, the number of people working in the state in April (4.05 million) is smaller than it was in May 2009 (4.07 million) and May 2010 (4.09 million).

Not all job trends are negative, as there have been jobs added in the private sector to offset cuts made in government payrolls.

“More than 44,000 jobs have been added since February 2010, all of them in the private sector,” wrote NCSU economics Professor Dr. Michael Walden in an analysis of the economy published last week. “But we are still short 280,000 jobs in the state compared to prior to the downturn.”

The job growth Walden noted is about 1 percent.

However, the methods used to calculate unemployment by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the jobless rate has declined more substantially than the miniscule change in jobs would indicate.

The primary factor is the number of people counted as unemployed, which in April declined 29,000 from May 2010.

The size of North Carolina’s workforce as estimated by the government has shrunk due to the fact that an increasing number of people are either not receiving jobless benefits, have stopped looking for work, or have moved or retired or other factors.

Under that measure, North Carolina’s jobless rate was 9.7 percent in April vs. 10.3 percent in May 2010 and 10.9 percent in May 2009.

Unemployment in the state peaked at 11.2 percent in March 2009.

Nationally, the jobless rate was 9 percent in April and 9.1 percent in May.

The jobs statistics cited in this report are seasonally adjusted. Economists consider the numbers that are based on seasonal factors such as time of the year and weather to be a more accurate barometer of the jobs market than separate household and workplace surveys.

May 2009

  • North Carolina’s labor force: 4.55 million people.
  • The number of people working: 4.07 million
  • The number of unemployed: 495,000
  • Unemployment rate: 10.9 percent

May 2010

  • North Carolina’s labor force: 4.57 million people
  • The number of people working: 4.09 million
  • The number of unemployed: 473,000
  • Unemployment rate: 10.3 percent

April 2011

  • North Carolina’s labor force: 4.44 million
  • Number of people working: 4.05 million
  • Number of people unemployed: 444,000
  • Unemployment rate: 9.7 percent

A look back at November 2008 data as the recession deepened in the wake of the Wall Street financial crisis and when President Obama won election and carried North Carolina:

November 2008

  • North Carolina’s labor force: 4.56 million
  • Number of people working: 4.2 million
  • Number of unemployed: 359,000
  • Unemployment rate: 7.9 percent

In November 2007, North Carolina’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent with 214,000 unemployed and 4.32 million people working.




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