Slow job growth spurs chamber's need for data access
February 6, 2013By Jenny Callison
The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce has improved its access to data about job growth in the Wilmington MSA, which consists of Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties.
With the help of an intern from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the chamber developed a software program that makes monthly MSA data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics more useful, said Connie Majure-Rhett, the chamber’s president and CEO.
“The program lets us sort and rank relevant statistics on a month-by-month basis, so we can see how North Carolina is doing as well as how Wilmington is doing,” she said. “We could get monthly jobs data before, but it took immense effort to see where our MSA ranked.”
The chamber’s initiative was spurred by two recent reports. One was the December employment report from the N.C. Department of Commerce, and the other was data analysis from Garner Economics LLC, a private economics research and strategic planning firm based in Atlanta. Both showed the Wilmington MSA lagging in job creation.
According to Garner’s Progress Report: U.S. Metros & National Job Growth, job growth in the Wilmington MSA for the past 27 months has been below the national employment growth rate. In fact, the Wilmington MSA was among 30 MSAs in the country that have failed to meet the national employment growth rate in every month since September 2010, when the U.S. began adding jobs after the Great Recession, the report stated.
William (Woody) Hall, senior economist at UNCW’s Swain Center, said that in the two years from mid-2010 to mid-2012, only two of the MSA’s 10 largest employment sectors showed job gains. Those sectors were health care and public administration.
The new software will give the chamber access to fresh data each month so it can track the area’s job growth and see how the Wilmington area is doing, Majure-Rhett said. She emphasized that it’s important to look at the jobs picture as well as unemployment figures.
The Wilmington area unemployment rate was 10.2 percent in December – the most recent figures available. That was higher than the state’s unemployment rate of 9.5 percent for the month.
In his economic assessments and forecasts, Hall said, he normally uses unemployment figures because they are available on a monthly basis. His analyses are done county by county, rather than by MSA, and county job growth numbers are available quarterly rather than monthly, meaning that the data can be stale, he said.