U.S. employers added 165,000 jobs during the month of April according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increase in hires helped bring the unemployment rate to 7.5%, the lowest level since December of 2008.
While the numbers did surprise many economists who were expecting signs of a spring slump, the monthly unemployment report showed that the road to full recovery is still long.
12 million Americans still remain unemployed with 4.3 million remaining unemployed for a period of at least 6 months. The number of workers getting paychecks is also about 2.6 million people shy of the number at the job market’s peak in January of 2008. This more than five-year streak has made this the slowest job-market recovery since the start of World War II. The unemployment rate in North Carolina also decreased from 9.2% in March to 8.9% in April.
“The good news is that the unemployment rate has gone down to 7.5%, which is a low from our crisis in 2008 and 2009 when it was 9%,” said Reilly White, a Professor of Finance at Elon University. “The bad news is that more people are leaving the workplace than ever before. You are only part of the (unemployment) calculation if you are actively looking for work.”
“63% of the people that could be working are actually seeking jobs or are employed,” White said, commenting on the 63.3% civilian workforce rate that is currently at a 34-year low.
White says that the same problems facing the U.S. are facing North Carolina.
“North Carolina had a large manufacturing business which got hit very hard during the financial crisis, and more harm came with the local textile industries going overseas,” White said. “The financial services sector in North Carolina was hit hard too, especially in Charlotte.”
E.J. Young is a member of the Class of 2012 at Elon University and has spent the last year working for a financial business in Charlotte. Less than three weeks ago Young was laid-off from his job due to company cuts.
“Like many companies, 2013 was planned to be a great year but in reality things aren’t the way they were in early 2008 and before. The first quarter was rough for my previous company and I since I was a newly added employee I was among the first to be let go,” Young said. “I was completely in shock, I thought we were already out of the worst of the storm.”
Young was thankful to find work quickly using some of the resources he gained while at Elon.
“I went on the Elon Job Network, Elon Career Services, and reached out to some of my networking connections. I started to apply to many jobs and received a reply from every job I applied for on the Elon Job Network. I received three offers less than a month after being laid off and now I have a new job. I could not be more thankful for that,” Young said.
But not everyone in North Carolina had the same resources or luck with the economy that Young did. That is where the North Carolina Employment Security Commission helps. The community resource center assists people in North Carolina with finding work using the NC Job Connector database and other work opportunities.
“I tell all customers that looking for work is hard work also and it takes time. Do not get discouraged and keep looking,” said Lisa Arnette, Employment Security Manager in Burlington, N.C.
While the battle looking for a job might be tough, the get the economy back on track is looking like it will be more and more tough. Especially when inaccurate data is reported.
“This gives the false impression that things are improving, but in my research things are not improving,” said Patrick Bell, a Professor of Management at Elon University. “Business and manufacturing and jobs all remain very slow, we’re not even close to the point of employment we were at prior to 2008, and this traditional way of reporting numbers hides a lot of the pain out there in society.”
“The long-term way to solve this is to fix the education system, to fix this erroneous idea that you have to go to college to be successful and get employed,” Bell said. Bell suggests that the American people need to push for the education of technical skills rather than that of a four-year liberal arts degree to prepare people for the workforce.
“There’s a very well developed and wide range of technical schools out there, but we don’t do that here. Its either college or you’re a failure,” Bell said. “Not everybody is cut out for this style of learning or the kind of jobs that college sets you up for. So when people fail, they feel bad about themselves, but really its society doing them a disservice by saying you have got to get a college education.”
Bell’s point is validated by the fact that the two industries that had the most new hires last month was restaurants and bars with 38,000 jobs and retailers with 29,000 jobs added. Both are sectors of the economy, which require little to no college education to be competitive in.
The unemployment rate released for April teaches North Carolinians and Americans alike one lesson, the road to recovery is slow and long and resilience and willingness to change and search actively for new jobs will determine how long this historic recession continues.