Trends in North Carolina’s traditional industries

Date posted: January 12, 2012

Tobacco, textiles, and furniture were the leading economic sectors in our state for almost a century, but over the past 30 years they have grown smaller and been replaced in their prominence by industries like banking, food processing and technology. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden considers the question of whether we are still seeing employment losses in the former Big Three sectors.

“This has been very interesting.  We’ve actually seen a divergence in these sectors over the last couple of years.  We’ve continued to have job losses in tobacco manufacturing, textiles and also in apparel. We usually lump textiles and apparel together. But the losses have been relatively minor — 0.1 percent of our aggregate job base.

“In contrast, furniture manufacturing since early 2010 has actually added jobs – 500 jobs.

“I think what’s happening here, first of all …, is all three industries, I believe, are nearing probably what will be a steady level of employment. Hopefully the big, big job losses we’ve seen … over the last 30 years are at an end. And actually I think we may begin to see some revival in parts of these sectors.

“In fact, we’re already seeing areas like acoustics, high-tech fabrics and custom and high-end furniture start to take off. So this could actually be a very dynamic set of sectors down the road.”

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