The State of Working North Carolina

The State of Working North Carolina

Each year on Labor Day our State of Working North Carolina report details the economic conditions and trends that face North Carolina’s workers.  This year, in addition to focusing on these conditions and trends today, we also delved deeper how the current lack of jobs and the growth of low-wage jobs will impact the state’s economic future, particularly given demographic trends in the state.

This week’s Prosperity Watch takes a look in particular at the resiliency in the African-American labor force in the context of a shrinking of the state’s labor force and a significant number of North Carolinians who remain missing from the labor force.  Both trends are primarily driven by the lack of jobs and together are holding back the state’s full recovery.  Within these broader trends, however, and despite higher unemployment rates, African-American workers have remained in the labor force at a greater rate than other workers.  From Prosperity Watch:

In the face of high unemployment and labor market outcomes that are pushing African-Americans in particular further behind, an interesting trend has emerged.  In the nation as whole and North Carolina, African-American workers have demonstrated resiliency in their connection to the labor force. The unemployment rate for African-Americans remains much higher relative to whites, growing by 4.6 percentage points from 2007 to 2013 compared to a 2.7 percentage point change over the same period for whites. And yet, African-Americans have been much less likely to leave the labor force altogether despite weak job prospects.  The labor force participation rate changed from 2007 to 2013 for African-Americans by 2.6 percentage points while dropping far more for whites by 4.2 percentage points.

The labor force resiliency of African-American workers is contributing to the persistent difference in unemployment rates between African-Americans and whites.  But on the positive side, when jobs return, it could also position African-American workers for faster re-employment.

News, The State of Working North Carolina
MaryBe McMillan

MaryBe McMillan of the N.C. AFL-CIO answers questions from some of the reporters in attendance prior to this morning’s rally in Raleigh.

About a hundred people gathered next to the Fallen Firefighters Memorial in downtown Raleigh this morning for a rally/press conference to help kick off a three-stop “#TalkUnion” tour that is being by state union and civil rights leaders. The tour will also feature a noon event in Greensboro at the Beloved Community Center at 417 Arlington Street and conclude with a 5:30 p.m. rally in Charlotte’s Marshall Park at 800 east 3rd Street. All are invited.

The event in Raleigh featured Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP and state AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan as well as rank and file workers and leaders from the local faith community.  All spoke of the desperate need in North Carolina to raise wages for average workers and to halt and reverse the conservative policy agenda of the state’s current political leadership.

The claims of the various speakers were boosted this morning by the release of the latest “State of Working North Carolina” report by experts at the North Carolina Justice Center.

This is from a release that accompanied the new report:

  • Almost six out of every 10 new jobs created since the end of the recession are in industries that pay poverty-level wages, keeping workers trapped in poverty even when they are working full-time.
  • The growth in low-wage work is disproportionately impacting workers of color and women: 13.2 percent of women, 13.5 percent of African-Americans, and 23 percent of Latinos earn below the living income standard, compared to 9.7 percent of men and 9 percent of whites.
  • The persistence of higher unemployment rates for African-Americans is in part being driven by the greater labor force resiliency of African-American workers. Since the recession, African-Americans have not dropped out of the labor force at the same level as white workers.
  • There are approximately 260,000 North Carolina working families who live in poverty, with 12.8 percent of working families earning poverty wages.
  • 13 of 14 metro areas saw labor forces decline since June 2013. For eight metros, the decline in unemployment was driven by the unemployed moving out of the labor force rather into jobs.
  • Rural employment dropped 2.7 percent since the start of the recovery while the state’s large metropolitan areas have seen 6.5 percent job growth.

These data coincided neatly with Rev. Barber’s statement in announcing today’s tour in which he noted:

“While we honor our workers on Labor Day, we cannot ignore the policies and laws passed down from this North Carolina General Assembly that are attacking poor and working families. We believe North Carolinians who work 40 hours each week should be able to put food on their tables and buy school clothes for their children. The long fight for labor rights, for voting rights, for educational equality and for quality health care for all is not a fight between Republican and Democrat. It is a moral fight for the soul of the nation. That is why we are making this Labor Day a Moral Monday.”

Click here for more information on the #TalkUnion tour.”

Click here to read the entire “State of Working North Carolina” report.

Falling Behind in NC, NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters, The State of Working North Carolina

Today is EITC Awareness Day – also referred to as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a federal tax credit that encourages work by boosting the income of low- and moderate- income working people and offsets federal payroll and income taxes. The EITC has proven to be a powerful tool in helping lift families out of poverty and improving the well-being of young children.

In 2007, a state EITC was established to help further boost the wages of low- and moderate-income workers in North Carolina and offset the higher share of state and local taxes they pay as a percent of their income compared to high-income workers. More than 900,000 North Carolinians claimed this tax credit in 2011, according to the most current tax information provided by the NC Department of Revenue. The impact of the EITC spans across the state, with taxpayers in each of the state’s 100 counties claiming the tax credit (see this interactive map).

Unfortunately, this tax filing season will mark the last year that low- and moderate-income North Carolina workers will benefit from the state EITC. State leaders allowed the state EITC to expire at the end of last year and chose not to extend the tax credit as part of the tax plan passed last year. As a result, the expiration of the state EITC represents a tax increase for more than 900,000 hardworking low- and moderate-income North Carolina taxpayers, for which every dollar counts in their efforts to make ends meet.

The State of Working North Carolina, Uncategorized

state of working NC - NC BLUE cropped (3)Labor day – a holiday created by the labor movement and dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers – provided little reason for North Carolina workers to celebrate this year. The State of Working North Carolina, an annual report assessing how workers in the state are faring, shows what many North Carolina workers already know: unemployment continues to plague the state and many workers – despite working full time – are just not getting by.

Nearly 1 in 4 workers in the state are in occupations that pay less than  $22,811 – the 2011 poverty threshold for a family of four. Roughly half a million workers in North Carolina are supporting themselves, and often their families, on the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The minimum wage has received some long-overdue attention as of late with increasing attention to growing income inequality and national proposals based on the premise that those who work full time should not be living in poverty. Pre-labor day protests all across the country, and in North Carolina, highlighted the extreme disparity between workers struggling to make ends meet with soaring corporate profits in one of the few industries growing in the state. Read More

The State of Working North Carolina

The State of Working North Carolina was released this week, and the numbers reemphasize that North Carolina’s working families have  experienced declines in financial stability and economic opportunity over the last decade.  One take away from this grim story is that North Carolina needs not only jobs, but good jobs. As a recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research highlights, however, good jobs are in short supply.

Good jobs pay a living wage. Read More