NC Budget and Tax Center

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 Charlotte Observer reports of the strain on the state’s court system in the wake of state budget cuts in recent years. The state’s court system is expected to run out of funding for juror pay by April of next year, the Charlotte Observer highlights.

The ability of the state’s court system to operate effectively has been increasingly challenged amid cuts in state funding over the years. While other states have adopted technology and incorporated electronic filing systems, North Carolina continues to use a paper-based system, which slows down the judicial process. The time taken to complete civil and criminal cases has increased in recent years, the Charlotte Observer article notes, resulting in a judicial system that is inefficient, more costly, and less customer-friendly.

State lawmakers quoted in the article note their unawareness of the pending funding shortage for juror pay and state that the General Assembly is being asked for money that it doesn’t have. This is increasingly clear as stories throughout the state have highlighted yet another announcement that the state’s revenue collections are below projections.  Official estimates now put the revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year at $190 million.

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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

Yesterday, the Labor and Economic Division released October labor market data for all 100 counties.  The headline of the release was that the unemployment rate had dropped in 98 counties, or nearly all, in the past month.  It sounds like good news, and it is, but the new data also show that many parts of the state are still struggling mightily. As the Budget and Tax Center has noted before, you have to look deeper than the headline unemployment number to know whether employment prospects are actually improving.

Such a look behind the unemployment rate does show signs of labor markets improving year-over-year, primarily along the lines seen at the state and national level.  The number of unemployed people has declined since October 2013 in all counties and a majority of counties have seen gains in employment.

But it is not “mission accomplished” time yet. The October county data contain worrying signs that should not be glossed over.

The majority of counties have not caught up to pre-recession levels of employment. Employment prospects are still slow to emerge in many counties, particularly in the rural parts of the state. Sixty six counties have more unemployed people in October 2014 than they did in December 2007.

Even more concerning, roughly one-third of the counties registered declines in employment from October 2013 through October of this year. Beyond not having caught up to pre-recession employment, many parts of our state have taken a step back over the last year. Again, this troubling trend is most concentrated in rural counties. Read More

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.