EVERYBODY'S BUSINESS: The good, the bad and the ugly

Jul. 21, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Monday marks the fourth anniversary of when Clint Eastwood received the Order of the Rising Sun, 3rd class, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon from the Emperor of Japan. In honor of that glorious occasion, this week's column will be "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" themed.

The Good

North Carolina is the 16th best state as far as new manufacturing jobs go, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Lee County has one of the state's highest workforce participation rates in manufacturing, and the whole middle part of the state has a healthy manufacturing base. Between December 2009 and this past March, the state has added about 11,000 manufacturing jobs.

Bob Joyce, president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, told me earlier this month that Lee County has been adding manufacturing jobs at a brisk pace, although local plants still haven't gotten back to pre-recession employment numbers. Even still, it's good that jobs in this sector are increasing, since many companies pay workers a middle-class salary. The state's fastest-growing industry by a long shot, leisure and hospitality, offers a typical salary of just $8.30 per hour — about $12 per hour below the state average.

The Bad

Although the state has generally been adding jobs in manufacturing, the industry dropped 300 jobs across the state in June. Also, North Carolina's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.8 percent last month, which is basically unchanged since April. And since April, 35,000 people have dropped out of the workforce, including more than 10,000 in June.

That's opposite the national trend, which saw the labor force grow last month. North Carolina's unemployment rate has remained stagnant because even though the workforce is shrinking, so is the number of jobs: The number of employed people in the state dropped by nearly 11,000 last month. Lee County's June employment numbers come out a week from Tuesday.

The Ugly

North Carolina dropped from fourth to 12th place on CNBC's annual ranking of the top states for businesses — the state's first time ever outside the top 10. States are ranked based on how business groups rate them, as well as measures such as cost of doing business and quality of life, and finally by how well they met their own stated economic development criteria.

The drop is certainly embarrassing, but there's always a silver lining. The General Assembly's tax reform plan, while slammed by progressives for shifting a greater burden onto poor people, would likely help businesses. Also, a bill which would fast-track natural gas drilling in North Carolina is looking more and more likely to pass — and the top three states on CNBC's list were the two Dakotas and Texas, all of which are undergoing energy booms right now.

In other news...

Business fluctuations: In the past week, two new corporations formed in Lee County — Brick City Appraisals and Central Carolina Pressure Washing — and none were withdrawn or dissolved.

Have business news? Contact Will Doran at wdoran@sanfordherald.com or (919) 718-1217.