New Hanover County enters 2018 with increasing labor force, declining unemployment rate

New Hanover County enters 2018 with increasing labor force, declining unemployment rate

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Brittany Roberts believes she has found the perfect career fit.

"Problem solving, people skills -- it's just so much fun. Every day is a new challenge," said Roberts about her position as a Guest Service Agent with Embassy Suites in Downtown Wilmington.

But her journey to working in Wilmington wasn't a slam dunk.

Right after graduating from college with a degree in Resort and Hospitality Management, Roberts moved to Virginia from Florida to find a job. However, she didn't have any luck there and decided to move to Wilmington instead.

Within a month of relocating to the Port City, Roberts said she had landed her dream job at a luxury hotel.

"I just saw the hotel being built, and I thought it was gorgeous. So, I did some research, and then I got the job."

Roberts isn't the only newcomer benefiting from a strengthening economy in Southeastern North Carolina.

In New Hanover County, the labor force has increased from roughly 100,000 to 120,000 over the last decade. Concurrently, unemployment rates have declined from about 10% in 2010 to 4% in 2017, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

From 2016 to 2017, the two industries with the greatest growth in Wilmington were professional and business services, and education and health services.

"The labor force has been growing for two reasons: Those who were discouraged and left the labor force during the recession are more optimistic and reengaging, and the region's population is growing overall," according to Adam Jones, Ph.D., an economics professor at UNC Wilmington.

"The falling unemployment numbers means the region is creating jobs faster than people are moving in or reengaging in the labor market," said Jones.

"We are growing businesses in this region," said Natalie English, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President & CEO. "We've cut ribbons this year as a chamber of commerce on average four or five times a month, new businesses."

With more businesses looking to hire, competition can result for talented employees.

"We also know that the falling unemployment rate impacts our ability to get the best talent, because they're already all employed," said English.

Over the last decade, Bladen County's labor force dipped slightly from 15,500 to 14,500. Brunswick County's labor force remained stable, with a slight increase to 50,000 in the last two years. Columbus County's labor force dropped from 24,000 to 22,000 over the last decade, while Pender County climbed from 23,000 to 27,000.

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