WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – An examination of the changing job market in our region shows that although the economy is improving, growth is very slow.
One of the fields that has experienced the most growth over the past decade is accommodations and food service.
More than 18,000 people in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties work in the industry, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
Although the number of workers in fields like hospitality has increased, their paychecks remain slim, according to Dr. Woody Hall, economist at UNCW.
"Even though we've had some growth in employment, to some extent it had been concentrated in some relatively low-paying sectors," said Hall.
A growing field with relatively high wages is healthcare, but it's also an industry that requires skilled workers.
"We've seen individuals with four-year degrees who have gone back to technical colleges to get two-year degrees which will make them more employable," said Hall.
One of those people is 31-year-old Lia Davis, who already has a bachelor's degree but is pursuing a nursing degree at Cape Fear Community College.
After working in hotel management for more than a decade, she's switching from hospitality to healthcare.
"I always say that my only talent is that I'm really friendly, so nursing gives me the opportunity to bring light to people who are hurting and sick and could really use encouragement," said Davis.
While some fields, like healthcare, hold promise for area workers, other industries, like manufacturing and construction, lost a quarter of their workforce in the past ten years.
New housing starts are up, but Hall says the real-estate industry still has a long way to go for a full rebound.
"Let's just put it this way, we had a good ride up, and the ride down, it's been pretty bad, too," he said.
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