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Because income is so closely related to poverty, high rates of unemployment are often linked to high rates of poverty (1-4). Unemployment is a significant disruption to family well-being, which may last for only a short time or can be long term, and long-term unemployment and poverty produce a vicious cycle (5,6).
The unemployment rate is defined as the percentage of those who are within the labor force who are not employed, but are actively seeking employment. The labor force is comprised of civilian residents (e.g. not on active duty in the Armed Forces) who are at least 16 years old and are not residing in an institutional setting (e.g. jails or prisons, mental health care facilities, or nursing homes)(7).
- The unemployment rate in Forsyth County in 2014 is higher than the majority of the comparison communities, which could contribute to Forsyth County having a higher poverty rate than those communities.
- Unemployed residents in Forsyth County are more likely to be in poverty than full-time- and part-time-employed residents, and part-time-employed residents have higher poverty rates than full-time-employed residents.
- Forsyth County has a lower rate of full-time employment than comparison communities, and this could contribute to higher rates of poverty in Forsyth County as well.
- Younger residents ages 16-24, minorities, and females are disproportionately impacted by unemployment in Forsyth County, which could increase the risk of these groups being in poverty.
This section explores the broad trends of unemployment in Forsyth County and compares the unemployment rates in Forsyth County to peer communities.
Figure 1a: Unemployment Rate in Forsyth County, 2006-2014
Figure 1b: Labor Force Participation Rate in Forsyth County, 2006-2014
Figures 1a and 1b show that from 2006 to 2014 the unemployment rate in Forsyth County has increased significantly. This increase in the unemployment rate might be contributing to increasing rates of poverty in Forsyth County.
- The unemployment rate increased from 6% in 2006 to 12% in 2009, stayed at this peaked rate from 2009 to 2012, and then decreased to 10% in 2014, which was still significantly higher than in 2006.
- The labor force participation rate, which measures the population working or looking for work, has also decreased from 2006 to 2014, suggesting that some residents who were working or looking for work in 2006 may have retired or stopped looking for work by 2014, which could contribute to a decrease in the unemployment rate that would not necessarily correlate to a decrease in poverty.
Figure 2: Percent of Residents Unemployed by Geography, 2006-2014
As shown in Figure 2, the unemployment rate in Forsyth County in 2007 was significantly lower than that of North Carolina and most of the peer communities. It was not until 2012 and 2014 that the unemployment rate in Forsyth County was higher than that of most of its peer communities, and higher unemployment rates in Forsyth County could be contributing to Forsyth County having a higher poverty rate than its peer communities during this time period.
- The unemployment rate in the majority of peer communities increased during the recession but then decreased as their economies recovered from the recession.
- The majority of peer communities experienced an unemployment rate increase of less than or equal to 2 percentage points between 2006 and 2014, but the unemployment rate in Forsyth County increased by 4 percentage points between 2006 and 2014.
Data for Roanoke (munc.), VA and Lafayette Parish, LA have a high level of variance and should be interpreted with caution.
Figure 3: Percent of Residents in Poverty by Work Status in Forsyth County, 2014
As Figure 3 depicts, residents who are unemployed have a higher rate of poverty than residents who are working full-time or part-time, but part-time employed residents are still more than four times as likely to be in poverty as residents employed full-time.
Data for residents working full-time have a high level of variance and should be interpreted with caution.
Figure 4: Percent of Residents Employed by Geography, 2014
Figure 4 demonstrates that in 2014 the percentage of residents working full-time is lower in Forsyth County than in the majority of peer communities. The lower percentage of full-time-working residents in Forsyth County might be contributing to a higher poverty rate than in the peer communities.
Bars of a lighter color indicate no statistical difference compared to Forsyth County.
Figure 5: Percent of Residents Unemployed by Census Tract in Forsyth County, 2010-2014
Figure 5 shows that tracts with higher unemployment rates are mostly clustered around the eastern side of Highway 52 and the central areas of Forsyth County, which are also areas with higher poverty rates (not shown in Figure 5). This suggests that these high unemployment rates might be contributing to higher poverty rates in these areas than in areas with lower unemployment rates.
Unemployment by Age
This section examines how people of different ages are affected differently by unemployment in Forsyth County.
Figure 6: Percent of Residents Unemployed by Age in Forsyth County, 2010-2014
As illustrated by Figure 6, the unemployment rate for younger residents, ages 16-34, is higher than any other age group in Forsyth County, which could be contributing to higher poverty rates in this age group.*
*The unemployment rate measures the percentage of residents currently seeking employment. This excludes full-time students, stay-at-home parents, and other people not seeking work.
Data for residents 65 and older have a high level of variance and should be interpreted with caution.
Figure 7: Percent of Residents in Poverty by Employment Status and Age in Forsyth County, 2010-2014
Figure 7 demonstrates that there is no significant difference in the poverty rates of unemployed residents by age in Forsyth County, but younger residents ages 16-24 who are employed are disproportionately affected by poverty.
Data for 16-to-24-year-old residents have a high level of variance and should be interpreted with caution.
Data for residents 65 and older is excluded from analysis due to an extremely high level of variance.
Unemployment by Gender
This section breaks down the unemployment rate to examine how people of different genders are affected differently by unemployment in Forsyth County.
Figure 8: Percent of Residents in Poverty by Employment Status and Gender in Forsyth County, 2014
Even though other analyses have found that the unemployment rates of males and females do not differ significantly in Forsyth County (not shown in figure), Figure 8 indicates that unemployed female residents are more likely to be in poverty than unemployed male residents.
Data for employed males and females have a high level of variance and should be interpreted with caution.
Unemployment by Race/Ethnicity
This section breaks down the unemployment rate to examine how people of different races and/or ethnicities are affected differently by unemployment in Forsyth County.
Figure 9: Percent of Residents Unemployed by Race/Ethnicity in Forsyth County, 2010-2014
Figure 9 shows that the unemployment rate for African Americans in 2014 was about 18%, which is almost twice the unemployment rate of Hispanic/Latino residents and almost three times that of White, non-Hispanic residents. These racial disparities in unemployment could be contributing to racial disparities in poverty.
Data for the Hispanic/Latino population have a high level of variance and should be interpreted with caution.
Figure 10: Percent of Residents in Poverty by Employment Status and Race/Ethnicity in Forsyth County, 2010-2014
As shown in Figure 10, racial disparities in poverty persist even when controlling for employment status, which suggests that factors aside from unemployment are contributing to racial disparities in poverty.
- The poverty rate of unemployed Hispanic/Latino residents is not significantly different from the poverty rate of unemployed African American residents in Forsyth County. However, Figure 9 indicates that African American residents are almost 1.7 times as likely to be unemployed as Hispanic/Latino residents, which means that unemployment may have a greater impact on the poverty rate of the African American community than that of the Hispanic/Latino community, even though poverty rates for unemployed residents of both groups are similar.
- Also, the poverty rate of employed Hispanic/Latino residents is almost twice as that of employed African American residents and almost 6 times that of employed White, non-Hispanics, which suggests that being employed might not be as protective for Hispanic/Latino residents as to members of other racial/ethnic groups.
Data for unemployed, Hispanic/Latino residents had a high level of variance and should be interpreted with caution.
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- Pew Charitable Trust. (2013). Hard choices navigating the economic shock of unemployment: 2013. Retrieved from http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2013/empreportoverviewhardchoicesnavigatingtheeconomicshockofunemploymentpdf.pdf
- Nichols, A., & McDade, Z. J. (2016). Long-term unemployment and poverty produce a vicious cycle. Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/urban-wire/long-term-unemployment-and-poverty-produce-vicious-cycle
- U.S. Census Bureau, Demographic Internet Staff.
(2012). ACS Employment status data by block group, 2006-2010. Retrieved from
Figures 1,2: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015). Employment status: Table S2301 [Data files from ACS 1-year estimates for the years 2006-2014]. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_S2301&prodType=table
Figures 3-5: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015). Poverty status in the past 12 months: Table S1701 [Data files from ACS 1-year estimates for the year 2014. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_S1701&prodType=table
Figures 6,7,10: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015). American Community Survey 5-year Public Use Microdata [Data files from PUMS 5-year estimates for the years 2010-2014]. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/data/pums.html
Figure 8: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015). Poverty status in past 12 months of individuals by sex by employment status: Table B17005 [ Data files from ACS 1-year estimates for the year 2014]. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_B17005&prodType=table
Figure 9: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015). Employment status: Table S2301 [Data files from ACS 5-year estimates for the years 2010-2014]. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_5YR_S2301&prodType=table