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Tracking Economic Output: North Carolina Makes Progress on Production

| Labor & Workplace

As North Carolina continues to grow and attract private-sector jobs, the NC Chamber Foundation remains focused on increasing quality and availability of in-demand talent, ensuring employers have the workforce they need and North Carolinians have access to stable, well-paying jobs. 
Importantly, we continuously track and report on the latest economic and employment data to provide insights on progress and benchmark against competing states. 
We worked with Dan Gerlach, economic advisor to the NC Chamber Foundation, on this month’s Foundation Forecast, which looks at recent economic output data and reports how the state’s productivity is ranking nationally. 

Meredith Archie
NC Chamber Foundation

Tracking Economic Output: North Carolina Makes Progress on Production

How does North Carolina’s workforce measure up in terms of productivity?  How many people and how many hours does it take to make a widget or provide a service? 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released state-level data on economic output (private sector GDP not including farms/residences) and labor productivity (output per hour of labor) that may partially answer this question.  

North Carolina: 

  • ranked 12th in increase in labor productivity from 2022 to 2023. In the eastern half of the nation, we trailed Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Tennessee, and West Virginia. 
  • ranked 15th in increase in economic output from 2022 to 2023. In the eastern half of the nation, we trailed Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, and West Virginia. 
  • tied for 32nd in increase in hours worked. 
  • ranked 27th at 3.5% increase in the cost of labor needed to produce one unit of output. 

The rankings in productivity are stronger than historic averages as North Carolina ranked in the 30s in terms of annual average percent change since 2007 (the Bureau uses 2007 as its benchmark). Since COVID, our productivity has averaged 19th in the nation compared with 34th for the time between 2007-2019. 

What does this mean? The rankings show North Carolina is gaining ground on the nation in terms of its production, but the state will not remain a national leader without growing its labor force.  

Consider that the state reported 267,000 job openings compared to 185,000 people counted as unemployed in March 2024, the latest month available.i

Additionally, the state gained over 850,000 payroll jobs over the last ten years,ii and we continue to see significant vacancies, especially in education, health care, and professional services.  

Growth demands an increase in the number of people working and sufficient technical ability with training and experience leading to greater productivity. Through the work of NC Leads, the Foundation remains focused on removing barriers to work and providing more opportunities for all who can and want to work.  

iUS Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 2024 reports.
iiAuthor’s calculation based on NC Department of Commerce database of BLS payroll data.