The unemployment rate in North Carolina plummeted in 2013, a trend mirrored in Duke’s hiring.
According to figures released by North Carolina Department of Commerce, the unemployment rate in the state was 6.9 percent in December 2013, down from 7.4 percent in November 2013 and 9.4 percent in December 2012. The report indicates that 13,414 more people are being employed in December 2013 compared to 12 months earlier. The University, among the state’s largest employers, hired more people in 2013.
“The trend of more people getting back to work in North Carolina is great news for our state,” Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican elected in 2012, said in a statement. “We continue to see that our pro-growth and pro-jobs policies enacted over the last year are having a positive impact and getting people into jobs.”
The seasonally adjusted data show a net gain of 64,500 nonfarm jobs in the last 12 months, including 22,200 more in professional and business services and 18,800 more in trade, transportation and utilities—the two sectors with largest job growth.
This upward employment trend is reflected in Duke’s hiring. The total number of employees at Duke has increased from 33,680 in 2011 to 35,573 in 2013, Paul Grantham, associate vice president of communication services, wrote in an email Friday.
In the past few years, the University has increased its staffing for strategic developments, notably the Duke Forward capital campaign, Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh said. The Duke University Health System also hired more employees, due to the growth of its operations and the opening of the Cancer Center.
At the same time, the employment statistics show that the labor force in North Carolina shrunk by 110,930 workers from December 2012 to December 2013, meaning that a number of people have chosen to leave the workforce.
This pattern is partially affected by North Carolina’s policy to reduce the level and duration of unemployment benefits in July 2013, said Mac McCorkle, associate professor of the practice of public policy and director of graduate studies.
“Two things are happening at the same time: More people are looking for work, and there are more people giving up,” McCorkle said. “Neither is good because while we don’t want people to stop looking for work, we also don’t want them to be desperately taking any job they can find.”
The state economy was hit hard during the recession because it has a large manufacturing base, which was one of the sectors that incurred the most job losses, McCorkle said. The economy has since been picking up, but has not yet recovered to the same level as before the recession.
Although there need to be generous unemployment benefits for a substantial period, they are not a permanent solution, only temporary relief, McCorkle noted. The main goal for the government should be to increase employment.
Part of the challenge of creating more jobs lies in the unpredictability, both within the businesses and in the wider economy, said Ted Conner, vice president of economic development and community sustainability at the Durham Chamber of Commerce.
“Hiring people is expensive, and it is hard for companies to make that investment when they don’t know whether they will get adequate rate of return from it,” Conner said.
As one incentive to encourage hiring, the government can provide tax cuts to entrepreneurs who create jobs, McCorkle said.
There has been significant economic growth in the past five years in Durham, Conner said. From 2010 to 2012, there had been an addition of 8,000 employed workers and 9,000 people in the labor force in Durham.
The responsibility of improving the employment situation also lies with the individual workers, Conner added. People can improve their chance of being employed by going through more training and redefining their skill sets.
The projections for Duke’s hiring are modest in the near future, Cavanaugh said.
“A lot of [the employment trend] depends on what continues to evolve in health care developments, but the University itself will remain prudent in its employment pattern,” Cavanaugh said.