Employment income is a critical factor in a family’s income and its poverty status. Wages can vary greatly between job types, and it can be useful in understanding poverty to understand what kinds of jobs are most likely to provide enough income for workers to not be in poverty. Additionally, changes and differences in industry makeup could explain differences in poverty levels over time or between communities. Industries losing jobs may be of additional concern, as job loss can negatively affect workers’ income and therefore their poverty status, even after they are rehired. 1 The Manufacturing industry in Forsyth County is of particular interest in this study, as many residents pointed to recent job losses in the Manufacturing industry as a potential cause of poverty in the county in community interviews conducted as part of this study. This section uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify characteristics and trends in jobs by industry sector. For more information on the data used, click here.
This section uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to identify major industries in Forsyth County and shows some changes in these industries between 2005 and 2014 that could have influenced poverty rates, most notably a dramatic decline in the Manufacturing industry.
- The largest industries in Forsyth County can be broken down into high-wage industries (Health Care and Social Assistance, Educational Services, and Manufacturing) and low-wage industries (Retail Trade, Accommodation/Food Service, and Administrative Support). While workers in any industry could be living in poverty, workers living in poverty may be most likely to work in the large, low-wage industries.
- In the past 10 years, there has been a dramatic decline in the Manufacturing industry and more moderate declines in other industries, which could have contributed to rising poverty rates over this period. Other industries, such as Educational Service and Health Care and Social Assistance, have seen growth, which could have had the opposite effect as long as a meaningful portion of this growth was workers not in poverty.
- Despite its dramatic decline, the Manufacturing industry in Forsyth County remains large and relatively well paid. It employs a larger portion of the workforce, giving it a larger impact on overall poverty rates, than Manufacturing industries in the majority of peer communities. It also has higher wages and, most likely, lower poverty rates than in any of the Manufacturing industries in peer communities.
Current Industry Profile
This section identifies the current status of industries in Forsyth County based on industry size and average wages. Larger industries should have a greater impact on poverty rates than smaller industries, and higher average wages should generally correspond to lower poverty rates for workers in that industry than in industries with lower average wages.
Figure 1 outlines employment in all industries in Forsyth County and identifies the six largest industries in orange.
- Each of the largest six industries in Forsyth County held at least 13,000 jobs, while other industries have fewer than 10,000. Together these industries represented 67% of total employment in Forsyth County.
- For smaller industries, only extreme changes would have a meaningful impact on overall poverty in Forsyth County. This is particularly the true for the five smallest industries, which have fewer than 2,500 employees and will be excluded from the remainder of the analysis.
- Health Care and Social Assistance accounted for 34,000 jobs, or 19% of all employment.
Figure 2 shows that the largest 6 industries in Forsyth County can be divided into high- and low-paying industries.
- Industries with higher average wages should tend to have lower poverty rates than industries with lower average wages, but this is not always the case. For example, an industry with many workers with low pay and a few extremely well-paid workers could have a high average wage and high poverty rates. Actual poverty rates by industry are not calculated by the BLS.
- Health Care and Social Assistance, Educational Services, and Manufacturing have substantially higher wages than other large industries, each having average wages above $45,000.
- Retail Trade, Accommodation/Food Service, and Administrative Support have substantially lower wages than other large industries, each with average wages below $30,000.
- Most other industries have average wages between $40,000 and $60,000.
- For reference, the Census considers families of four with income less than $24,230 and single adults with income less than $12,071 to be living in poverty.2
This section identifies changes in industries in Forsyth County from 2005-2014. Changes in the quantity and quality of available jobs could impact poverty rates, so long as the workers lived in Forsyth County. During this time period, total employment in Forsyth County declined by 1%, or 1,800 jobs, while the working-age population (age 16 to 64) increased by 15%. For more information on employment trends, see the employment section of this report.
Figure 3 shows that between 2005 and 2014, the job losses in the Manufacturing industry were the largest changes in industry size.
- Industries with higher average wages should tend to have lower poverty rates than industries with lower average wages, as discussed in the section above. Therefore, job gains should be more likely to lower poverty rates if they are in industries with high average wages, and job losses should have the greatest impact on poverty rates in industries with high average wages.
- Employment growth could represent new residents moving to the community, previously unemployed residents acquiring jobs, or previously employed residents taking a new job in a new industry. Each of these situations could have different consequences to poverty, and are not identified in the data.
- The Manufacturing industry lost 8,500 jobs, 35% of 2005 employment levels. Many community members have suggested that a decline in Manufacturing jobs has led to increased poverty rates. The majority of peer communities saw a decline in Manufacturing jobs, but the declines in other counties were relatively minor.
- There were other industries that experienced smaller changes, which would have a smaller potential impact on poverty rates.
- The Health Care and Social Assistance industry gained 5,800 jobs, representing a 21% increase in employment.
- The Transportation/Warehousing and Construction industries lost about 2,200 jobs each.
- The Management, Accommodation/Food Services, and Educational Services industries each gained between 1,700 and 2,400 jobs.
Figure 4 shows that, after adjusting for inflation, wages in some industries have shrunk.
- Industries with rising average wages should tend to have decreasing poverty rates. However, poverty rates would not change if only workers already above the poverty line saw increased wages. The impact of changes in average wages should be the greatest in the 6 largest industries.
- Wages in the Manufacturing, Retail Trade, and Accommodation industries shrank by 2% to 5%.
- The decline in employment and wages in the Manufacturing industry in Forsyth county suggests that the Manufacturing industry in Forsyth County lost its higher paying jobs.
- Manufacturing wages in Forsyth County dropped while they rose in most peer communities. Despite this, average Manufacturing wages in Forsyth County remain higher than in any other peer community (not shown in chart).
- Wages in the Educational Services and Administrative Support and Waste Management industries grew by 5% and 10%, respectively.
- The Management and Finance and Insurance industries each grew by more than 10%. These industries already have very high wages and presumably a very low poverty rate; wage growth in these industries is unlikely to bring a meaningful number of workers out of poverty.
The four measures above are best understood together, but they cannot easily be displayed together in one chart for multiple industries. This section provides all of this information in one place to create brief descriptions of the six largest industries in Forsyth County. It also provides peer comparisons for these industries when peer data for the industry was available.
These figures use some symbols to help understand each industry in a glance. People and dollar signs change in number to highlight notable differences between industries and do not represent specific values. The size and average wages of each industry changed between 2005 and 2014, but only larger changes are highlighted with directional graphics. These are given only to employment changes of at least 15% of 2005 levels and average wage changes of at least 5% of 2005 levels.