Anyone seeking to celebrate the declining unemployment rate in North Carolina or the Twin Counties should take a second look at the numbers, and what they actually show.
The jobless rate in North Carolina fell to 6.4 percent in February, down from 8.6 percent in February 2013. Similarly, Nash County’s jobless rate has fallen to 8.6 percent in February from 12.1 percent in February 2013 and Edgecombe County’s rate in February was 11.6 percent, a decrease from 15.2 percent in February 2013.
At first glance, that might sound like good news. But the bad news is that the declining jobless rate is not a result of thousands of unemployed people suddenly finding work. The true driver of the declining unemployment numbers is that the labor force is shrinking. More unemployed people have given up on finding a job and have simply quit looking for work.
The labor force is comprised of people who are employed and those who are unemployed but actively seeking work. Nash County’s labor force has decreased from 45,623 in February 2013 to 41,901 in February of this year, while Edgecombe County’s labor force dropped from 24,866 in February 2013 to 22,840 in February of this year.
While some of the state’s thriving metro areas are seeing new jobs being created and the labor force growing, most rural counties are confronted with the same diminishing labor force as the Twin Counties. Opportunities for good-paying jobs remain elusive for many folks in Eastern North Carolina and the state’s mountainous west.
This trend only helps further underscore the continued need for a focus on aggressive strategies for industrial recruiting and job creation. Investments in infrastructure, education and business recruitment initiatives must accompany the tax and regulatory reform policies that are so popular these days in the state capital. It will take a multi-faceted approach to establish an environment for meaningful job creation.