Leading or lagging?

Date posted: August 29, 2012

After years of having a relatively low unemployment rate, North Carolina’s rate ballooned to more than 11 percent — much above the national average. Today it’s still over 9 percent. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden considers whether this means North Carolina’s best days are over.

“First of all, North Carolina always traditionally has been hit hard by recessions. For example, in the most recent downturn in the economy, North Carolina lost 8 percent of her jobs. The nation lost 6 percent. If you go back to the previous recession in 2001, North Carolina lost 4 percent of her jobs. The nation lost 2 percent.

“The reason for our bigger losses is we are more of a manufacturing state, number one, and people are still moving here — and during bad times, adding to our unemployment rate.

“But the good news is that on the upside of the economy, when the economy is doing well in the nation, we tend to do better. For example, if you look at the last economic expansion from 2003 (to) 2008, job growth in North Carolina was almost double the national rate: 11 percent versus 6 percent.

“So, I think if we’re trying to decide where North Carolina fits in terms of the national economy, whether we’re leaders or laggards, I think that the first point is you have to look at the long run.”

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