The Economic and Social Impact of Job Loss in Robeson County, North Carolina 1993-2003.

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Hossfield, Leslie, Mac Legerton, and Gerald Keuster. "The Economic and Social Impact of Job Loss in Robeson County, North Carolina 1993-2003." Sociation today [North Carolina Sociological Association] 2.2 (2004). February 21, 2007.


The article begins with this statistic to stage its discussion:
“As a result of manufacturing job loss from Robeson County, NC 1993-2003, over $713 million in jobs, income, and business taxes were lost.”

This startling figure is placed within the context of
     (1) the effect of restructuring of the manufacturing sector nationwide in the last 30 years, and its impact on rural areas in the Southeast and North Carolina; and
      (2) the impact of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on North Carolina.

Just from 1997-2000, Robeson County lost 41% of its manufacturing jobs.

The bulk of the article is a report on research by the Jobs for the Future Project, begun in 2002 by the Center for Community Action. This project (see seeks to “develop comprehensive strategies of economic relief and reconstruction in Robeson County, N.C.”

The authors note that they consider this article a preliminary report. Their more extensive research report was published in October, 2004 and is available at

The North Carolina Employment Security Commission shows that Robeson County lost 8,708 manufacturing jobs form 1993-2003—reducing the percentage of jobs in the county that were in manufacturing from 31% in 1993 to 18% in 2003. The research reported here, however, gives a far more detailed assessment of the impact of those job losses on the county and the region. The ripple effect is assessed using economic input-output model analysis (IMPLAN). The IMPLAN data, plus data from government reports and quotations from people in the county, demonstrate an almost unimaginable impact. The following are some of the report’s findings:

• The IMPLAN data revealed that, when initial manufacturing layoffs and all multiplier effects are considered, the loss of 8,708 jobs had a net result of 18,345 jobs lost.

• Because of the ripple effect, the loss of 8,708 jobs had reduced regional household income by $674 million per year by the year 2004. The region includes Scotland, Hoke, Columbus, Bladen, and Cumberland counties as well as Robeson; it also includes Dillon, SC. The report explains what is included in “regional household income.”

• Also by 2004, regional governments’ collection of indirect business taxes had been reduced by $37 million per year.

• Figure 6 shows the ripple effect as far as the number of lost jobs and the lost income in dollars in the areas of banking; eating and drinking; wholesale traders; motor freight; government (education); government (non-education); U.S. Postal Service; and hospital. This data comes from the IMPLAN system.

• Using the net result of 18,345 jobs lost (see above), Figure 7 shows the ripple effect in terms of lost income, lost business taxes, and total per-year dollars lost to Robeson County, 1993-2003.

• Robeson County’s unemployment rate rose steadily during the 10-year period, peaking in 2001 and 2002 as more plants closed. The rates were generally double that of North Carolina as whole. As context, the authors note that in 1999, North Carolina had the nation’s twelfth lowest unemployment rate; but by December 2001, North Carolina was 46th out of 50 states in unemployment, having lost more textile and apparel jobs that any other state from 2000-2001.

• Robeson County’s unemployment insurance payments nearly doubled from 2000-2001.

• Personal bankruptcies filed in eastern North Carolina district courts nearly quadrupled between 1994 and 2002.

• Half of Robeson County’s workers are aged 35-54. Many have only a high school diploma or less. Studies show that older workers with less education face more hardship and remain unemployed longer after losing a job.

• The report also discusses the percentages of people in Robeson County who do not have health insurance; the number of children living in poverty; and the increases in payments, between 1994 and 2001 for SSI, AFDC, food stamps, earned income tax credit, foster home care, energy assistance, medical payments, and disability retirement payments.

Among the authors’ conclusions is that “since federal policy is a major cause of the problem of massive job loss, more responsible and constructive national policy must be a major part of its solution.”

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