The State of Working North Carolina

The State of Working North Carolina

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

The State of Working North Carolina

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.

The State of Working North Carolina

This week we will be following up on the State of Working North Carolina report with briefs on specific issues worker’s face in the current economic context.  We will highlight here and in those publications the effective policies that can deliver expanded opportunity and shared prosperity for workers and the economy.

Today, we released a brief on long-term unemployment in North Carolina.  Nearly half of North Carolina’s workers have been out of work for six months or longer. The more time out of work, the greater the loss in earnings for workers and the greater the strain on the finances of a household. Continued long-term unemployment can also lead to a growth in discouraged workers and a decline in the labor force participation rate–all of which worsen the prospects for sustained economic expansion. Read More