Commentary

NC economy falling further behind the rest of the U.S.

Apologists in the right-wing think tanks continue to do their best to cherry pick and spin the tale of a “Carolina Comeback.” Pretty soon there will be a release from the folks in one of the Pope-funded groups celebrating that North Carolina has the seventh fastest growth rate among states whose names include two “n’s during months with between seven and nine letters in their name.

But when it comes to the reality on the ground for real people, the data surrounding the North Carolina economy remain extremely sobering. NC Justice Center economist Patrick McHugh explains in this new release:

Unemployment declines sharply across the U.S. but grows in North Carolina

October 20, 2015 — Economic growth has reduced the number of unemployed across the United States, but such growth doesn’t seem to be happening in North Carolina.

September labor market data released this morning showed a 14 percent decline in the number of people looking for work over the last year, while the ranks of the unemployed in North Carolina grew over the same period.

“We’re creating jobs, but it’s not enough to actually get everyone back to work,” said Patrick McHugh, economic analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “With so many people out of work, there’s less pressure on employers to raise pay, which is part of why wages in North Carolina are falling further behind the nation.”

The state unemployment rate in September is where it was a year ago at 5.8 percent, but the number of people looking for work is actually up slightly. Nationwide, the unemployment rate decreased almost a whole point to 5.1 percent and the number of unemployed workers fell by over 1.3 million.

Important trends in the September data also include:

  • North Carolina wages are not keeping up with the nation. The average weekly paycheck in North Carolina shrank by around $4 over the last year, while weekly wages nationwide grew modestly. This continues a trend of the last several years with North Carolina’s workers failing to receive the meager wage growth that has happened nationwide. The gap between weekly wages in North Carolina and the country has grown from around $55 before the Great Recession to around $100 in September.
  • There are still more North Carolinians out of work than before the Great Recession. There were almost 270,000 North Carolinians looking for work in September, almost 50,000 more than before the Great Recession.
  • The percent of employed North Carolinians is still near historic lows, as well as below the nation. September numbers showed 57.4 percent of North Carolinians were employed, leaving our state well below the level of employment that was commonplace before the Great Recession. In the mid-2000s, employment levels reached a peak of about 63 percent. The percent of North Carolinians with a job remains below the national average, as it has been since the Great Recession.

For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out the Budget & Tax Center’s weekly Prosperity Watch platform.

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