Labor Day numbers: Despite low unemployment, 7,200+ NC workers losing their jobs this year

Furniture, trucking industries and the Canton paper mill responsible for nearly half of job losses

By: - September 4, 2023 5:55 am
The back of a red sweatshirt reads "Made in the USA"

Nationwide, union membership was at an all-time low in 2022, but that trend appears to be reversing. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

If you are fortunate to have Labor Day off, thank a union.

Although there’s disagreement about who to credit for suggesting the holiday — Peter J. McGuire or Matthew Maguire — both men were leaders in their respective labor unions. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland made it an official federal holiday. (Black people and other non-white racial and ethnic groups were long excluded from membership in unions; they had little reason to celebrate Labor Day. Moreover, Black Americans were also only 30 years out from slavery when the holiday became enshrined.)

Nationwide, union membership was at an all-time low in 2022, but that trend appears to be reversing. After the pandemic, as many people reconsidered the outsized role work plays in their lives, they began to unionize: At Starbucks, at Amazon, even at Duke University, where graduate students voted to unionize and collectively bargain with the university. Yet according to the Economic Policy Institute, while more jobs were unionized last year, nonunion jobs were added at a faster rate — so the share of union membership remains low.

This Labor Day, we look at unions and employment in North Carolina:

10.2% – Percentage of U.S. workers who belonged to a union in 2022

20.1% – Percentage of U.S. workers who were unionized in 1983

2.8% – Percentage of N.C. workers who were in a union in 2022; the state ranks 49th in union membership, just above South Carolina.

28,690Number of jobs created in N.C. in 2022

7,283 – Number of people laid off or scheduled to be laid off this year*

4,204 – Number of people laid off last year

5,604 – Number in 2021

1,050 – Number of people laid off at the Evergreen paper mill in Canton this year

885 – at Yellow trucking corporation (multiple locations)

884 – at Klaussner Furniture in Randolph County

533 – at Mitchell Gold Co. in Alexander County

171,000 – Total number of unemployed people in NC, July

A map of North Carolina showing all the counties in varying shades of blue, representing unemployment rates for July. The lowest rate, 2.7%, is in Swain County, while Scotland County has the highest, 6.7%. (Graphic: NC Department of Commerce)
Graphic: NC Department of Commerce

3.3% – Statewide average unemployment rate, July

6.7% – Highest unemployment rate, July (Scotland County)

2.7% – Lowest unemployment rate, July (Swain County)

25,000 – Unemployment insurance claims as of Aug. 19

12.7 – Average number of jobs held by people born 1957-1964, from ages 18 to 56

*Based on figures submitted in WARN notices to the state Department of Commerce. Companies that employ more than 100 people that plan a mass layoff or closure are required to file a WARN to the state. WARN notices trigger a Commerce Department Rapid Response team to provide transition support for the affected workers and families.

Sources: NC Department of Labor, NC Department of Commerce, US Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Lisa Sorg
Lisa Sorg

Assistant Editor and Environmental Reporter Lisa Sorg helps manage newsroom operations while covering the environment, climate change, agriculture and energy.