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NC and Charlotte area showing signs of jobs growth, economic recovery: expert

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David Boraks
Retail shops and restaurants have been dealing with a labor shortage in the wake of the pandemic.

Mecklenburg County commissioners heard on Tuesday that the region’s economy is recovering, but it remains challenged, especially as lower-wage workers leave fields like hospitality for better-paying jobs in places like distribution centers.

The economy has seen both downturns and unexpected resilience since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Some industries have seen major growth while others have seen declines. County commissioners received a presentation from Laura Ullrich, an economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

The bank’s territory includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and West Virginia. Among those states, the Carolinas have shown the strongest signs of recovery.

Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Bureau of Labor Statistics/Haver Analytics

“The only two states in the 5th District that are outperforming the nation as a whole are North and South Carolina,” said Ullrich. “The gap between North and South Carolina is pretty significant, so North Carolina is over 200,000 jobs above where we were pre-COVID.”

While recovery varies from city to city, Charlotte has had better fortunes than most.

Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Bureau of Labor Statistics/Haver Analytics

“Charlotte has done much better than many of the other areas, even in the Carolinas, but certainly better than many other areas across the country,” Ullrich said.

“I was in a meeting this morning that looked at four cities and the return to work.  It was San Francisco, Boston, Charlotte, and Austin,” Ullrich said Tuesday. “San Francisco and Boston have not anywhere near recovered the number of jobs that they had before COVID, but Charlotte has.”

If you go into your favorite restaurant, you might sit and wonder how is any of this true? With labor shortages in the food and service industry, economic normality can seem far off.

What's happening, in most cases, is it's not that 'person A' doesn't work anymore. It’s that they don't work at McDonald's now. But they work in an Amazon warehouse or they answer phones for a bank's call center from their home. Now they've left one sector and moved to another.”

With the job market constantly changing, Ullrich said there will continue to be shifts in the workforce as employees look for better benefits, money and positions.


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Kenny is a Maryland native who began his career in media as a sportswriter at Tuskegee University, covering SIAC sports working for the athletic department and as a sports correspondent for the Tuskegee Campus Digest. Following his time at Tuskegee, he was accepted to the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program as a Marketing Intern for The NASCAR Foundation in Daytona Beach, Florida in 2017.