Explaining North Carolina’s jobless rate

Date posted: June 15, 2012

Before the recession, North Carolina had an unemployment rate near 4.5 percent. At the peak of the recession the jobless rate in our state reached 11.4 percent, seventh highest in the nation. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden explains why.

“Well, that’s an excellent question. … I think it’s one that a lot of people in North Carolina have been asking. … We had a good job market for so long. I think there are two big reasons behind this. One is our economic structure in the state. We are still much more of a manufacturing state: 22 percent of our economy is still based in manufacturing in North Carolina. It’s 13 percent for the nation. Manufacturing always, always takes a bigger hit during recessions. Therefore, since we’re more of a manufacturing state, we took a bigger hit, a higher unemployment rate.

“Second thing is we’ve, … at least in some sense, imported unemployment. People are always moving around the country from one state to the other. During the recession we had an immigration rate from other states. People moved from other states in the U.S. to North Carolina — five times higher than the national average. Five times higher. And obviously people are coming here looking for work. Surely not all of them found work. So, that contributed to our unemployment rate.

“So, I think there [are] some logical reasons why that rate got so high. Hopefully it’s going to start to come down much faster in the coming years.”

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