Has the NC economy recovered from COVID-19? A look using QCEW data.
Has the NC economy recovered from COVID-19?  A look using QCEW data.

Has the NC economy recovered from COVID-19? A look using QCEW data.

This blog article compares the latest quarterly census of employment wages (QCEW) (third quarter of 2021, future 2021 Q3) and compares it with its pre-pandemic analogue (third quarter of 2019, future 2019 Q3) to understand the impact of COVID- 19 at North Carolina employment and wages at the industrial sector level.

How has the economy changed in NC? Total industrial employment reached 4,515,068 in the third quarter of 2021, a slight increase of 1% from the level in 2019. In the same period, even after adjusting for inflation1, the average weekly wage increased by 8%. During the same period, the United States experienced a decline in employment (-3%), while real wages grew by 8%.

North Carolina saw employment growth in more than half of the industrial sectors. Transport and warehousing added the most jobs, nearly 30,000, while Finance and Insurance added more than 22,000 jobs.

Employment growth in the NC Industry Sector, 3rd quarter 2019 to 3rd quarter 2021

Source: Chart generated by LEAD staff using data from the Quarterly Census of Employment (QCEW), 3rd quarter 2019 and 3rd quarter 2021

A more detailed look at a selection of these industries reveals an interesting nuance to North Carolina’s economic recovery. The table below shows that the struggle to return to pre-pandemic employment levels coincided with the growth in real wages for all selected industries during the period:

Industry Sector Employment
3rd quarter 2021
% change in
Employment,
Q3 2019 – Q3 2021
Avg. weekly
Pay
3rd quarter 2021
% change in
Real salary,
Q3 2019 – Q3 2021
In all, all industries 4,515,068 1% $ 1,111 8%
Professional, scientific and technical service 293,359 10% $ 1,805 6%
Retail 512,812 1% $ 681 13%
Health Care & Social Assistance 627,647 -1% $ 1,135 9%
Manufacturing 464,582 -3% $ 1,236 3%
Accommodation and food service 409,413 -9% $ 434 14%
Source: North Carolina Quarterly Census of Employment (QCEW), downloaded from D4

Looking at national trends for these industrial sectors in the table below, it shows that North Carolina is recovering faster than the United States in terms of employment, but is lagging behind in real wage growth for Professional, Scientific & Technical Services and Manufacturing.

Industry Sector % Change, NC
Employment
Q3 2019 – Q3 2021
% change, USA
Employment
Q3 2019 – Q3 2021
% Change, NC
Real wages
Q3 2019 – Q3 2021
% change, USA
Real wages
Q3 2019 – Q3 2021
In all, all industries 1% -3% 8% 8%
Professional, scientific and technical service 10% 4% 6% 8%
Retail 1% -1% 13% 13%
Health Care & Social Assistance -1% -2% 9% 7%
Manufacturing -3% -4% 3% 5%
Accommodation and food service -9% -10% 14% 11%
Source: North Carolina QCEW data obtained from D4, national QCEW data obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

This analysis tells us that North Carolina has experienced a rapid recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic, but it is uneven and incomplete. Several key sectors lack their pre-pandemic employment levels. NC’s real wages have risen in all industrial sectors, but are lagging behind national increases in manufacturing and professional, scientific and technical services. As additional datasets become available, we will better understand the changes in our economy.

Method

Why did we choose to highlight these five industries? They provide more than half of all jobs in NC – Health Care & Social Assistance (13.9%), Retail (11.4%), Manufacturing (10.3%), Accommodations & Food Services (9.1% ), Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (6.5%). Professional, scientific and technical services added the most employment of any NC industry between 1990 and 2020 and increased by 218%.

Footnote

1Adjustment performed using the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ personal consumption expenditure index.

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