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Digging Into the Data: Analyzing North Carolina's Employment and Wage Trends from QCEW's Q2 2023 Release

The latest QCEW release gives us the most timely and detailed view of what’s happening across North Carolina’s industry sectors. This article looks at where jobs and wages have grown – and declined – over the past year, and how inflation has impacted assessment.

Author: Trevor VanAuken

The North Carolina economy is complex and ever-changing, and there are many ways to evaluate its performance. One method is to look at data on industry employment and wage growth. The QCEW (Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages) program compiles administrative data directly from employers who contribute to the state’s unemployment insurance system. This offers a timely and detailed view of the economy broken down by industry and geographic area. Recently, data for the second quarter of 2023 was released. In this article, we explore some of the ways we can analyze this data to gain valuable insights into North Carolina’s economy. Since employment and wage can vary by season, an effective way to assess changes over time is to compare the same quarter from this year to last.

Graph 1: Percent change in employment

In general, employment grew at a solid rate over the past four quarters. Some of the largest percentage changes were seen in the Mining and Arts sectors, while the largest numerical changes were seen in industries such as Health Care and Accommodation and Food Services.

Next, let’s take a look at the average weekly wage. In the second quarter of 2023, North Carolina’s average weekly wages ranged from $467 (Accommodation and Food Services) to $2,468 (Management of Companies), which equates to $24,284 to $128,336 annually. While looking at average weekly wages can show which industries pay more, looking at percentage change can help us see where wages are growing. Out of 20 industries, 18 had positive wage growth, with decreasing average wages occurring in Mining and Finance and Insurance. Over all 20 industries, the average change in weekly wage increased by 3.3%. These changes are shown in graph 2.

Graph 2: Percent change in average weekly wage

However, this is without considering inflation. According to the average BLS Consumer Price Index, prices grew 4.0% between the second quarter of 2022 and the second quarter of 2023. After inflation is applied, 11 industries had decreasing wages, which turned North Carolina’s average weekly wage over all industries negative. The inflation-adjusted change in wage is displayed in Graph 3.

Graph 3: Inflation-adjusted changes in average weekly wage

Since the high inflation that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, prices have still been growing, but at slower and slower rates. The year-over-year inflation used in this article was 4.0% – much higher than the inflation between the third quarter of 2022 and 2023, which was 3.5%. We will see how this impacts wages in the third quarter of 2023 when the QCEW data is released in a couple of months.


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