Commentary

Expert explains huge masked problem with NC economy

In case you missed it over the weekend, Patrick Conway, the head of the economics Department at UNC Chapel Hill had an important op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer about the true state of the North Carolina economy. As Conway explains, the recent rosy claims of state officials and their apologists in the right-wing think tanks  are ignoring a huge, under-reported issue: 300,000 “missing” workers who have simply evaporated from the workforce. Here’s Conway:

There’s a large disconnect in perceptions of the current state of North Carolina’s labor market.

Gov. Pat McCrory stated a positive view in a recent address in Chapel Hill: “We’ve had one of the largest drops in unemployment [rates] in the country.” His more general contention was that the state’s labor-market difficulties are “being resolved” by tough choices made by his administration.

A contrary view was voiced by a recent letter-writer who said we’re still in the midst of a terrible recession.

These views seem contradictory, but it is easy to reconcile the two. McCrory ignores the 300,000 working-age adults who have dropped out of the labor force since 2010. If we assert that they’re gone, our unemployment rate is a high but acceptable 6.8 percent. If we recognize that these are productive residents who have temporarily stopped looking for work, then our unemployment rate is a terrifying 12.4 percent.

Conway goes on to say that simply ignoring these missing workers will not solve the problem:

These missing 300,000 workers are not just people reaching retirement age. The annual increase in the number of residents aged 66 and above is only 40,000. Also, many people of retirement age find they must remain working.

We need to resolve the problem of the missing 300,000. Ignoring them or treating them as permanently retired is not satisfactory. If unemployed due to a lack of skills, a jobs-training program is appropriate. If unemployed because of refusing to leave a rural county that has lost its employment base, the governor’s business recruitment plan should be even more sharply directed to the rural counties. If unemployed because aggregate demand in the state has not yet recovered enough, accepting the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act or participating in extended federal unemployment insurance could bring them back into employment.

Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Waiting years for a resolution will be a loss for the state – a loss of production, a loss of income, a loss of heart.

Click here to read the entire essay.

2 Comments


  1. david esmay

    October 27, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    How many of those 300,000 simply had to leave the state to find employment? My guess it’s quite a few.

  2. ML

    October 28, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Yea but even more moves to the state to collect those fat unemployment checks… Or at least that’s what Patty-boy said he heard someone say. So convincing…

Check Also

National think tank: Why Raleigh should be among top five Amazon finalists

There are lots of legitimate concerns about Raleigh’s ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

Nothing is off the table when it comes to Republican judicial reform, and a former Wake County judge [...]

On a cozy autumn evening at the luxurious Umstead Hotel in Cary, a medley of corporate luminaries, s [...]

A fix for North Carolina’s class size crisis in March? A GOP senator from Wake County tells his cons [...]

Back in September, the N.C. Historical Commission put off a decision on removing three Confederate m [...]

It was a snowy and shortened work week for a lot of people in North Carolina, but unfortunately, tha [...]

Mounting student debt is a nagging problem for most families these days. As the cost of higher educa [...]

Latest racist attacks on immigrants could be an important tipping point As bleak as our national pol [...]

Grand constitutional questions in this country aren’t settled until the Supreme Court has its say, e [...]

Upcoming Events

Featured | Special Projects

NC Budget 2017
The maze of the NC Budget is complex. Follow the stories to follow the money.
Read more


NC Redistricting 2017
New map, new districts, new lawmakers. Here’s what you need to know about gerrymandering in NC.
Read more