NC Budget and Tax Center

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Income Data 2013

The connection between economic recoveries and declining economic hardship is often assumed and yet it is no longer necessarily the case in reality. While poverty rates have traditionally moved in tandem with economic variables that often signal an economic recovery—job creation, declines in unemployment rates and adequate investments in anti-poverty strategies—the recoveries from the most recent downturns have not reduced poverty quickly and significantly.

Data from the country as a whole analyzed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides even greater historical context for the national picture showing that poverty rates fell within one to two years from the start of official national economic recoveries in the 1960s and 1970s. In more recent recoveries, it has taken four to five years for the poverty rate to fall. The data released last week showed the first statistically significant decline in the poverty rate for the country four years into the current recovery.

At Prosperity Watch this week, we documented the trends in North Carolina regarding recoveries and poverty rates. In the 2000s, the poverty rate failed to fall despite the official recovery that began in 2001 before the onset of the Great Recession. The recovery that began in 2009 has yet to significantly bring down the state’s poverty rate which last week we learned remained at 17.9 percent.

The disconnect between economic expansions and declining poverty is further evidence of a broken economic model in which the benefits of growth are not broadly shared. It is a clarion call for public policies to bind together once again improved economic performance and greater economic security.

This is the fifth post in a series that takes a detailed look at the 2013 US Census Bureau poverty data released on September 18th. The first post looked at how North Carolina is faring overall. The second post looked at how poverty varies by race, and the third post compared poverty by counties in North Carolina. The fourth post looked at child poverty. Read the entire series here.

2015 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

The final budget for fiscal year 2015 – which runs from July 2014 through June 2015 – includes a pay raise for public school teachers for the first time in several years. What the pay raise translates into regarding additional dollars in teachers’ paychecks is unclear based on differing comments by the governor and state lawmakers. Whereas Governor McCrory proclaims an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers, state lawmakers tout a 7 percent average pay raise.

Beyond the on average presentation of the teacher pay raise by state policymakers, the amount of additional money teachers will see in their paychecks varies greatly – particularly among early-career teachers compared to more experienced teachers.

Not all teachers are provided a long-awaited, meaningful pay increase under the new teacher pay structure. The new six-step pay structure for teachers included in the final budget replaces the existing 36-step pay scale – these steps are based on years of teaching experience and determine when a teacher gets a pay increase. Reducing 36 steps down to six entailed much maneuvering by state lawmakers, resulting in some teachers getting a boost in pay at the expense of other teachers.

Under the new pay scale, the starting pay for early-career teachers jumps to at least $33,000 from $30,800 under the old pay schedule—a 7.1 percent increase. However, salary increases for more experienced educators are much lower. In fact, some teacher would actually earn less under the new pay scale compared to the old pay scale; these teachers will continue to earn salaries based on the old pay scale for the 2013-14 school year along with a flat annual $1,000 bonus. Read More

Missing Workers, NC Budget and Tax Center, Uncategorized

The official unemployment rate ticked up in August to 6.8 percent but if you count those missing workers who would be in the labor market if job opportunities were stronger that rate would be 12. 6 percent.

Our update to the number of missing workers in North Carolina reflects the ongoing challenge for workers when there are too few jobs for those who want to work. It also demonstrates the failure of the unemployment rate alone to tell the story of what is happening in the state’s labor market.

The number of missing workers at Missing Workers August 2014the state level is calculated based on expected labor force participation rates while accounting for demographic trends like an aging population. As an indicator, the number of missing workers and an unemployment rate that accounts for them provides information about how far the current labor market is from meeting all the needs of workers in the economy.

North Carolina’s recovery will continue to struggle to deliver benefits broadly as long as so many workers remain missing from the labor force because there are too few jobs.

 

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Income Data 2013, Poverty and Policy Matters

Children face the highest poverty rate in North Carolina compared to other age groups according to data released last week by the US Census Bureau. After more than five years into an economic recovery, one in four children (25.2%) in North Carolina remained in poverty in 2013 –unchanged from 2012 and higher than the national child poverty rate (22%). At a time when we are experiencing an economic recovery, it is troubling that our state’s child poverty rate is not declining and remains significantly higher than the national average.

The numbers become even more meaningful when considering the disadvantages children in poverty face: less access to early education programs and high quality schools, food insecurity, higher stress levels and higher dropout rates, among other risk factors. Recent findings in brain development research also warn of the impact of toxic stress associated with poverty on a young child’s developing brain. Toxic stress can weaken the architecture of a child’s brain, creating long-term challenges that make it hard for one to be economically secure as an adult. Other numbers are rising for children across the nation and in North Carolina that we certainly don’t want to see on the rise. Infant mortality and child mortality has increased in North Carolina. There has also been a rise in the number of homeless school children, according to recently released national data. Both are indicators of poverty’s tight grasp on America’s and North Carolina’s children.

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NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Income Data 2013

North Carolina is enduring a painfully slow economic recovery. There are too few jobs open for all of the people looking for work, and the majority of the new jobs available pay wages so low that families can’t make ends meet. The ongoing economic hardship is evidenced in new data released last week by the Census Bureau. Statewide, the poverty rate held steady at 17.9 percent in 2013, with more than 1.7 million North Carolinians living on incomes below the federal poverty level. That’s about $24,000 annually for a family of four—certainly not enough to pay all the bills, much less get ahead.

However, just looking at statewide averages can mask the concentrations of hardship in particular geographic communities. A large and growing body of research shows that where one lives can determine if one has access to the educational and employment networks that can pave a pathway to the middle class. Because place is deeply connected to the opportunity structure, it important to analyze county-level (as well as neighborhood-level) variances in poverty.

Of the 40 counties in North Carolina for which 2013 data is available, 15 are urban and 25 are rural (based on population size).* Nine of the ten counties with the highest poverty rates were rural counties, which continue to face job loss and struggle with the consequences of the exodus of manufacturing jobs. The highest county-level poverty rate was in Robeson County, where nearly 1 in 3 residents lived in poverty. In fact, Robeson County consistently ranks as the poorest county in the state and as one of the poorest in the nation. Read More