The State of Working North Carolina

As shown in the recent report on the State of Working North Carolina, many families and workers across the state lost ground during the 2000s.  During this “lost decade,” workers experienced stagnant or falling wage growth, anemic job growth in the recovery from the 2001 recession, and the catastrophic job losses of the Great Recession of 2007-2009.  And in the three years since the formal end of the Great Recession, North Carolina has struggled to make up this lost ground—unemployment remains persistently high, with at least three workers for every available job opening.

In the face of this challenge, policy makers need to promote solutions that address the immediate crisis in employment and establish long-term path for building a sustainable employment base for the industries of the future.

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While now most often thought of as the symbol of summer’s end, Labor Day was established to recognize and remember worker’s contributions to our economy and society.  The latest State of Working North Carolina provides some Labor Day reading to help reflect on the challenges facing workers.  The analysis details trends in the economy and labor market along with policy opportunities for our state to support workers and the economic recovery.  Check it out here.

 

As one political convention ends and another is set to begin, there’s plenty of talk about the American spirit and the value of hard work. But getting lost in that rhetoric is the reality facing many working families in North Carolina this Labor Day.

Data released this week by the NC Budget & Tax Center found fewer jobs at the end of the last decade than at the beginning. The research also points to an acceleration away from high-wage industries like manufacturing and toward low-wage industries like food services. Here’s an excerpt from the BTC:

‘From 2001 to 2011, the state shed almost 380,000 jobs, almost 75 percent of which were concentrated in industries with average wages above the Living Income Standard, a market-based measure of how much a family must earn in order to meet basic expenses. In 2010, the North Carolina Living Income Standard for a family of four was $23.47 an hour.

North Carolina’s job gains during that decade were almost entirely concentrated in low-wage industries. More than 83 percent of the state’s job growth occurred in industries paying average wages below the Living Income Standard.’

NC State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan joins us this weekend on News & Views to talk about the state of work in North Carolina. McMillan weighs in on anti-union rhetoric, as well as the need for collective bargaining and more jobs that pay a living wage. For a preview of her radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below:

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As we wait for President Obama’s post-Labor Day speech on employment, it’s a crucial time to be  thinking about job creation, but also an important moment to reflect on the conditions of those who are still employed.

A brief released today as part of the State of Working North Carolina series stresses the importance of  ensuring that workers are paid for the work that they do and that these wages allow workers to support themselves and their families.

The brief notes that wage theft, or the illegal withholding of wages by an employer, is on the rise; that a higher percentage of North Carolina’s working families are currently earning low incomes; and that the state’s lowest-wage earners actually saw a decline in inflation-adjusted wages over the last 10 years. Simply said, more and more families are relying on jobs that don’t pay enough, or in the worst cases, don’t pay at all. Read More

A job saved is as good as a job created these days.  That’s what a brief released today reminds us as we think of ways to put our state and our workforce on a path to recovery.

Released as part of a series examining the State of Working North Carolina, the brief walks through the significant shifts our workforce has faced over the last thirty years, including the growth of women in the labor force as well as the booming numbers of workers who wield major caregiving duties for family members.  And how our workplace policies have utterly failed to keep up with these changes that working families know all too well.

The result?  Families teetering on the edge of keeping their jobs when common occurrences like a cold strikes them.  That’s because nearly half of North Carolina’s private-sector lack a single paid sick days to care for themselves or a sick family member.

Similarly, working families have very few supports to aid them in dealing with another set of common life experiences—birth and long-term illness.  The only law on the books, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, that is supposed to allow families to take leave time to care for a newborn child or a parent with Alzheimer’s is inaccessible to the majority of North Carolinians (and Americans) because the leave time is unpaid and it only applies to workers in larger businesses.

As we know, in today’s economy, losing a job can be catastrophic and caregiving responsibilities are increasing become a reason workers are seeing their paychecks shrink or even losing their economic livelihood.

There is no reason families should have to choose between caring for their families or a job.  We’re in the 21st Century afterall.  And it’s time policymakers start recognizing that and looking at common-sense measures like paid sick days to ensure that our workers can hold on to the jobs they’ve got.  There’s no better time than now.