NC Budget and Tax Center

This Labor Day, policies needed to knock down barriers to employment for all

The North Carolina Justice Center released its annual State of Working North Carolina report today. As workers, their families, employers and communities reflect on the critical role that work plays in well-being, the report lifts up the barriers that persist block Black and brown workers from good, quality jobs and the necessary role of public policies in connecting every North Carolinian–white, Black and brown– to good, quality jobs.

The report provides data on:

  • The current employment, unemployment, and wage data for North Carolina including breakdowns by race and ethnicity. Less than 60 percent of North Carolinians have reported being employed during most of 2019, which is both lower than the national average and well shy of the levels that North Carolina reached in the past 30 years. North Carolina regularly achieved levels of employment throughout the 1990s that were substantially above the national rate, but the state has seen that record erode during the last few economic cycles. Policies that drive job creation in places that aren’t seeing job growth in the economic recovery such as through investment in public institutions or policies like Medicaid expansion that support hospitals as anchor institutions and employers in rural areas are critical to this goal.
  • The wage differential for workers of color and white workers by educational attainment and union membership. Closing the difference in wages earned by Black and brown workers and white workers is critical to advancing the well-being of the state. It can both improve the financial security of individual families but has an impact across generations by providing for greater income to build assets and wealth and by supporting a whole host of outcomes that indicate improved well-being for communities including greater resiliency. If the difference in union median wages for Black workers and white workers were eliminated, Black workers would earn $11,780 more each year. Policies that drive more equitable wage outcomes would increase the minimum wage standard while also providing for the ability of public sector workers to collectively bargain.
  • Specific barriers that affect access to jobs, such as longer commute times, penalties upon exiting the criminal justice system, and challenges of post-secondary training and N.C.’s growing need for these skills. Identifying and removing the barriers that block Black and brown workers from equitable employment outcomes are critical to achieving the economic boost that many researchers have identified (and PolicyLink quantified for North Carolina here).  Policies that give all people access to affordable post-secondary education and licensure and public investments that keep post-secondary institutions affordable and create a public transportation infrastructure that connects people to jobs can smooth the way towards employment equity in North Carolina.

The economic recovery continues to elude too many North Carolinians.

To truly drive the benefits of this expansion to each and every person regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or where someone lives, this Labor Day our policymakers should commit to connecting more people and places to the good, quality jobs that boost the economy for all.

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