Guest Writer: Mike Hogan, RTI International
The coronavirus has had a profound impact on North Carolina’s economy – it is among the hardest hit states by the economic downturn currently ranking fifth nationally in number of jobs lost according to WalletHub. Employees in restaurants, hospitality, entertainment, and retail have seen their jobs disappear overnight, and additional ripple effects are being seen in industries such as health care, media, professional services, manufacturing, and others. By Mid-April 2020, the state reported over 719,000 jobless claims. Nationally, job postings on Indeed are down by nearly 37% from this month last year, with the largest losses in food services, entertainment, tourism, and childcare.
In the short term, economic relief packages from the federal government, together with state, local, and private sector initiatives, have focused on the immediate need to keep companies financially solvent with short-term loans and keeping employees on the payroll. In the medium-to-long-term, we are likely to see significant shifts in our economy as consumers, employers, and government adjust to a new normal. While GDP has declined and unemployment is high, there is no consensus among economists on the speed or nature of the recovery will be. Most agree that the recovery will look very different depending on the region and industry. However, the Triangle region is poised to work towards a quick rebound and will rely on innovation, collaboration, and data to recover.
Established industries in IT, professional services, manufacturing, health care, and construction are likely to recover and rebuild, while the crisis is likely to create longer-term shifts in service industries like restaurants, retail, hospitality, personal care services, and tourism. Regions that depend on tourism will likely struggle in the near term. Recently emerging sectors such as e-commerce, digital media, analytics, cybersecurity, logistics, advanced manufacturing, precision medicine, fintech, and other knowledge-intensive industries will demand a workforce with skills and credentials that employers have struggled to find in the labor force.
A critical question moving forward for North Carolina’s economic recovery will be how to identify industries with growth, what skills and credentials will be needed to work in those industries, and how to connect the workforce with training and job openings. This will require a concerted effort from the private sector, workforce development, and educational institutions to bridge existing skills and access gaps and connect people out of work to good-paying, quality jobs.
To support this effort, RTI, Wake County Economic Development, Cape Fear Collective, and a coalition of regional and statewide partners are conducting a regional skills analysis in the Triangle and Cape Fear regions of North Carolina to identify industry and region-specific trends and needs for talent in the next three years. This data will inform a coordinated strategy to prepare economic and workforce development partners to address the workforce needs of industry as we navigate the economic recovery. You can take the survey here or visit the survey overview page for more information.