NC Budget and Tax Center

BTC - Missing Workers November 2014

The latest report on labor market conditions was released on Friday showing that despite improvements in North Carolina, there remains a long way to go to proclaim a fully recovered economy. One measure of just what remains unaddressed is the number of missing workers in the state, those workers who if job opportunities were stronger would be in the labor market looking for work.

In November 2014, there were an estimated 302,285 missing workers in North Carolina. If these workers had actually been counted in the official unemployment rate that rate would be 12.4 percent, more than twice the official rate for November of 5.8%.

NC Budget and Tax Center

One key measure to assess the strength of the recovery is to look at how nominal wages, wages not adjusted for inflation, grow over time. The reason being that low and flat nominal wage growth is an indicator that employers don’t have to offer wage increases to keep employees since the labor market market continues to be weak.

As the Economic Policy Institute indicates in their release of the Nominal Wage Tracker,  an on-line platform with useful graphics and up-to-date data, a target to aspire to is between 3.5 and 4 percent which is likely the point at which workers would start to see real benefits from economic growth. The actual year over year growth has been 2.11 percent.

NC Budget and Tax Center

The Washington Post began a series that will look at why America’s middle class is shrinking this week.  With it they have put together an important data tool for the public and policymakers to begin to delve into the dynamics affecting the country’s middle class.  The interactive map provides county level data over time of median household income, a measure what the household in the very middle of the distribution earns and a key indicator in assessing the well-being of household’s in a community that is often overlooked.

Analysis of median household income over time and places is not just important for individual household well-being but can also provide important insights into the health of the broader economy.  Equity in economic indicators is increasingly found to be associated with stronger and longer periods of growth.  These are positive outcomes to pursue in a recovery that has been modest and slow.

Nationally, the big take-away is that median household income peaked 15 years ago for more than 80 percent of counties. The data for North Carolina show a few interesting things:

  • Four counties, Hertford, Washington, Richmond and Scotland counties, saw their median household income peak in 1979
  • Rockingham, Rutherford and Cleveland counties saw their median household income peak in 1989
  • The majority of counties saw their median household income peak in 1999


NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina’s metro areas have been the location of the strongest job growth since the Great Recession.  But as the October 2014 county data released yesterday demonstrate, the improvements for metro areas have been insufficient to make up for the lost ground during the Great Recession.

Instead, 13 of the state’s 14 metro areBTC - Metro Area Recession Watch October 2014as still have a higher number of unemployed persons than they did before the Recession began.  Two metro areas–Hickory and Rocky Mount–have actually seen the number of employed persons continue persist below December 2007 levels.

And while improvements year over year have been made in job growth–the greatest growth occurring in Raleigh-Cary, Asheville and Wilmington–year over year the labor force has declined in eight of fourteen metro areas signalling an unhealthy level of employment opportunities.

There remains a long way to go for the economy to achieve a full and sustainable recovery if the variation in labor market experience persists to such a great degree even within metro areas of the state.

NC Budget and Tax Center

PolicyLink and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity have put together a new data platform, the National Equity Atlas, which provides community leaders with information to measure, monitor and make the case for inclusive growth across the country. The creators note that before the creation of this Atlas it was difficult to secure data on the state of equity in regions and states. That is a problem.

Equity is a key component of sustainable growth. As the country becomes increasingly multi-racial in the midst of rising inequality and declining public investment in communities, barriers for low-income communities and communities of color in accessing economic opportunity hold back the broader economy.

The National Equity Atlas provides insights into the state of equity in North Carolina as well as major metropolitan areas in the state including Asheville, Greensboro-High Point, Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, Raleigh-Cary and Winston-Salem.

Here is a sample of the data points for North Carolina:

  • By 2040, 48.2 percent of North Carolina’s population will be people of color.
  • Over the 2000s, communities of color were driving population growth particularly the Latino and Asian communities.
  • By 2020, 42.3 percent of jobs in North Carolina will require at least a Associate’s degree or higher. Barriers to post-secondary education such as cost, transportation or scheduling around work have resulted in lower educational attainment levels for African-Americans, Native Americans and Latinos.
  • In 2012, North Carolina’s economy would have been $63 billion larger if there were no racial differences in income levels.

Check out the tool here.