Jobs, Jobs Everywhere: An Update on North Carolina’s Tight Labor Market

Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Andrew Berger-Gross

North Carolina’s labor market continues to tighten, with rapid growth in job openings but a dwindling supply of jobseekers. This article uses recently updated data from LEAD’s Labor Supply/Demand Analyzer to highlight some of the most noteworthy labor market trends of 2018.1

The number of job openings in North Carolina increased 19% to nearly 200,000 in 2018 as employers raced to bolster their headcount amidst a growing economy. Meanwhile, the number of jobseekers declined 6% as the pool of unemployed workers in our state continued to dry up.

As a result, the number of jobseekers per job opening in North Carolina decreased from 2.3 in 2017 to 1.8 in 2018. This is the tightest labor market our state has seen since at least 2007. Jobseekers land jobs faster and often see higher wages when the labor market is tight. However, employers take longer to fill job vacancies and often incur higher labor costs in a tight labor market as they struggle to find talent to fuel their business.

The markets for certain types of workers are tightening faster than others. The market for construction workers is experiencing a particularly severe labor crunch. The number of job openings for Construction & Extraction Occupations surged 50% in 2018, while the number of jobseekers declined 31% over the year.2

The number of construction jobseekers per job opening declined from 6.5 in 2017 to 3.0 in 2018. Although the market for construction workers remains less tight than the overall labor market, it has tightened dramatically in recent years. This market is now over 21 times tighter than it was in 2009, and nearly four times tighter than it was in 2007, leading to hiring challenges for our state’s construction employers.

North Carolina’s regional labor markets have tightened across the board, showing a remarkable degree of convergence over the past eleven years. For instance, the North Central region (which includes Raleigh and Durham) had a much tighter labor market than the Northwest region (which includes Hickory and Boone) prior to and during the Great Recession.3 Since that time, the number of jobseekers per job opening in these regions has declined to only 1.7 and 2.5, respectively. The growth in employer demand for labor has led to abundant job opportunities and tight labor markets in every region of the state.

The Labor Supply/Demand Analyzer is one of several informational tools maintained by LEAD that can help jobseekers, employers, and workforce professionals navigate North Carolina’s changing labor market. Stay tuned to the LEAD Feed for more examples of how these tools can be used to answer questions and “tell a story” about our state’s economy.

General disclaimers:

Data sources cited in this article are derived from surveys and/or administrative records and are subject to sampling error and/or non-sampling error. Any mistakes in data management, analysis, or presentation are the author’s.

1Information on LEAD’s Labor Supply/Demand Analyzer is derived from labor force data from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and job openings information from the Conference Board and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. See here for more information about our methodology.
2In this article, we report occupations grouped at the 2-digit Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) level.
3In this article, we report regional data at the Prosperity Zone level.