The McCrory administration keeps peddling the idea of a “Carolina Comeback,” but it sure doesn’t feel like it’s happening on the ground. Maybe that’s because despite the regular announcements from the Governor’s office of business start-ups and expansions (sometimes with as few as 10 or 15 jobs), the state continues to suffer from a toxic combination of massive layoffs like the ones at Freightliner and MillerCoors Brewing and depressed wages for middle class workers.
New analysis from economist Patrick McHugh at the Budget and Tax Center confirms this hard truth:
North Carolina’s economy continues to leave many people looking for work, and even more hoping for a raise. While the national unemployment rate dipped below 5 percent for the first time since the Great Recession, North Carolina’s rate remained unchanged in January, holding at 5.6 percent.
“We keep hearing that robust wage growth is just around the corner but, if that’s true, we might be in a traffic circle.” said Patrick McHugh of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center. “North Carolina’s economy simply isn’t creating enough jobs for everyone that wants to work, and that’s holding down wages for many people who have a job.”
Important trends in the September data also include:
- North Carolina pay remains below the national average. The average weekly paycheck in North Carolina came in roughly $100 below the national mark in January. While wages in North Carolina have historically been lower than the national average, the gap has expanded substantially in the last few years. Compared to January 2012, when North Carolina weekly wages were roughly $58 below the nation, the gap has widened considerably.
- Still more North Carolinians out of work than before the Great Recession: There were over 265,000 North Carolinians looking for work in September, approximately 38,500 more than before the Great Recession.
- Percent of North Carolinians employed still near historic lows, and below the nation: North Carolina remains well below the level of employment that was commonplace before the Great Recession. In the mid-2000’s, 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.