North Carolina’s job path

Date posted: March 14, 2011

By some measures North Carolina has been creating jobs at a slower pace than the nation. Traditionally the opposite has been the case — job growth in North Carolina has been faster. Has something changed? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden weighs in.

“Well … what’s happening now is very similar — very similar — to what happened after the last recession in 2001. If you look at that recession and the nation and here in North Carolina in terms of job growth, we came out of the shoot very slowly. The nation added jobs in the initial couple of years after that recession at a much faster pace than we did here in North Carolina. But we caught up and actually exceeded the nation as time went on.

“In fact, over the economic expansion of the 2000s, North Carolina added 8 percent to its job base, compared to 5.5 percent for the nation. So we are kind of like the turtle and the rabbit. We did move slower initially, but we caught up and actually got ahead later.

“Now probably a big part of this has to do with our economic structure. We are still much heavier, if you will, in terms of manufacturing. And manufacturing, number one, always takes a big hit during recessions. And, number two, manufacturers have been the most aggressive at increasing labor productivity, so that when we come out of a recession, they have all that labor productivity gains built up.

“We don’t add jobs as fast, but as the economy improves businesses have to add jobs to keep up. And that’s probably — fingers crossed — what’s going to happen this time around.”

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