Earlier this month, the Budget & Tax Center released a new indicator of how the state’s labor market is faring– and the results are troubling for the future of our state’s workforce.

The labor market currently has a large number of missing workers, according to an indicator developed by the nonprofit, non-partisan Economic Policy Institute and adapted here for North Carolina.  This indicator estimates the number of men and women who would have been working or seeking work if the Great Recession had never happened and job opportunities had remained strong over the last six years.

These missing workers are not reflected in the U.S. or North Carolina unemployment rate.BTC - Missing Workers March 2014

Nationally, the number of missing workers was 5,290,000 in March 2014.  If these missing workers were looking for work, the unemployment rate would be 9.8 percent rather than the official unemployment rate of 6.7 percent.

An even starker pattern emerges for North Carolina, there were an estimated 246,611 missing workers in our state in March 2014. If these missing workers were looking for work, the unemployment rate would be 11.6 percent rather than the official 6.3 percent for March.

An important reason why these workers remain missing from the labor market is the fundamental lack of available jobs.  The job growth that has occurred over the past year has not been sufficient the need for work among the state’s jobless workers and the result is too many workers missing from the labor market.

jobs adFigures released Monday by the Division of Employment Security show North Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March falling to 6.3 percent, a slight improvement from February.

But analysts with the N.C. Budget and Tax Center note that while the state has seen its payrolls expand by 65,000 new jobs (1.6 percent) since March 2013, this represents slower job growth than the 1.7 percent rate of job creation in the nation as a whole. Here’s more from the BTC:

Not only did North Carolina underperform the rest of the nation over the last year, the state’s performance in 2013 stacks up poorly compared to its performance in previous years. Over the past year (March 2013-2014), the state created 200 fewer jobs than it did over the same period the year before (March 2012-2013), and only created 100 more jobs than were created from March 2011-2012—hardly signs of an increasing job creation trajectory.

“Given the massive jobs losses the state experienced in the Great Recession, the state needs to be creating jobs at a significantly faster rate than the rest of the nation in order to achieve escape velocity for a robust, long-term recovery in the labor market,” said Allan Freyer, a policy analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “Unfortunately, far from being a banner era of job creation, the last year was pretty disappointing from pretty much every angle—slower job growth and a falling labor force are evidence of a lagging overall economy.”

Here’s how economist John Quinterno with South by North Strategies puts the new data into context: North Carolina still has fewer payroll jobs, more unemployed residents, and a higher unemployment rate than it did 6.25 years ago:

Between March 2013 and March 2014, the number of unemployed North Carolina’s fell by 105,637 persons, but 46.8 percent of the decline was attributable to people who left the labor force entirely. If those 49,426 persons were added back to the labor force and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate in March would have equaled 7.3 percent. Even if 50 percent of those individuals were added back to the labor force and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate would have equaled 6.8 percent.

Declines in the statewide labor force participation rate provide additional evidence of a labor market that is not growing rapidly enough to accommodate all those who want and need work. In March, the labor force participation rate held steady at the revised February 2014 figure of 61 percent, which is the lowest monthly figure recorded at any point since 1976. Moreover, the labor force participation rate has fallen steadily since December 2012, when the rate equaled 62.7 percent.

“Despite recent declines in the statewide unemployment rate, labor market conditions in North Carolina remain underwhelming. Look beyond the important yet limited measure of the unemployment rate, and one will see labor market dynamics essentially no different from the sluggish ones that have characterized the past four years.”

Here’s a little bit about what’s captivating my attention after the long holiday weekend.

The Boston Marathon is underway, with the wheelchair racers already finishing up and both the elite men’s and women’s runners coming in during the lunch hour.  You can watch a live-stream of the runners here or read updates via blog form here.

There have been no shortage of moving remembrances of the tragedy that befell last year’s race, among some of the better reads was this article about a different pair of brothers who both lost their right legs and are trying to rebuild their lives.

There’s plenty happening here in North Carolina this morning, including the monthly release of federal jobs data from the state commerce department. A first-glance look shows that the state continued to see unemployment drop (now down to 6.3 percent, and below the national average), but the numbers also show that the actual labor force of the date (comprised of people who have jobs and who are actively looking for work) shrunk by approximately 50,000 from this time last year.

What that jobs data means has become a bit of a political flashpoint, with Gov. Pat McCrory calling the numbers “evidence that the policy changes we made are working” in a statement he released this morning.

On the other side, some economic analysts (including the N.C. Justice Center’s Budget and Tax Center) have urged caution in declaring victory over North Carolina’ job crises crisis, and instead say the shrinking labor force may mean those in prime working condition have been so frustrated in their job searches they’ve stopped looking.

Finally, I’ll leave you with what has become in recent years one of my favorite things about the Easter Holiday: the Washinton Post’s annual Peep diorama contest.

This year’s winner was “’I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. Addresses the Peeple

Another favorite was “Peeping POTUS,” a take on the NSA affair, with a family of Peeps being spied on by the Oval Office and federal agent Peeps while a Peepward Snowden exposes the whole arrangement on a television set.

There’s a great photo gallery of winning entries here.

 

040910_1521_TGIFlunchli1.jpgMembers of the House Committee on Food Desert Zones will meet this afternoon to issue their recommendations on how to promote healthier eating in areas that have limited access to fresh, nutritional fruits and vegetables.  Legislators are focusing on this issue as studies have shown residents who lack access to healthy choices in their local grocery store face higher levels of diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

This afternoon over at Duke University, Representative Graig Meyer and Governor Pat McCrory’s Senior Advisor on Education, Eric Guckian, will take part in a discussion about what makes for a successful K-12 education in North Carolina.

On Tuesday, members of a legislative committee examining the impact of the Affordable Care Act will hear from U.S. Senator Richard Burr and Pam Silberman, President of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine. The meeting gets underway at 10:00 a.m. at Elliot University Center Auditorium at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro campus.

(Photo: Eric Chance, Appalachian Voices)

(Photo: Eric Chance, Appalachian Voices)

One of the most highly anticipated meetings for the week comes Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. when the legislature’s environmental oversight committee holds a special hearing on coal ash regulations. Members are expected to discuss Gov. Pat McCrory’s “comprehensive  action plan” that he be given broader authority over coal ash disposal.

If you missed it over the weekend, several Republican legislators said they were upset that they were not notified about McCrory’s coal ash plan before it was released, and that it did not go far enough.

Two televised debates air this week to help North Carolina voters learn more about the top candidates in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. The first hour-long debate is slated for 7:00 p.m. Tuesday at Davidson College. Time Warner Cable News will broadcast the debate which will also be streamed by The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer of Raleigh.

WRAL-TV in Raleigh will host the second senatorial debate with many of the leading candidates on Wednesday. The debates conveniently come in advance of early voting, which starts on Thursday.Defenders of Justice

The N.C. Justice Center holds its 16th Annual Defenders of Justice awards ceremony Tuesday evening in Chapel Hill, honoring individuals or organizations who are making significant contributions in litigation; research and policy development; public policy advocacy and grassroots empowerment. You can read more about the 2014 honorees here.

Wednesday afternoon Environment North Carolina is hosting an event at Durham Central Park School for Children with Congressmen G.K. Butterfield and David Price to highlight steps people are already taking to fight climate change.

The school’s 4th grade class recently ran a fundraiser via kickstarter to purchase solar panels in an effort to cutcommon-core their carbon footprint. They not only raised enough money to buy the panels, the class is taking an additional step and building small wind turbines to generate even more clean energy.

And finally, the Committee on Common Core State Standards meets for a final time Thursday before delivering its recommendations to the General Assembly in advance of the upcoming legislative session. The question is will lawmakers recommend that the state opt out of the Common Core or delay its implementation as further review take place. Stay tuned…

Coal ash clean upThe N.C. League of Conservation Voters has a powerful critique of the Governor’s coal ash “plan” in this morning’s Weekly Conservation Bulletin (see below). As an aside, how can DENR Secretary Skvarla and the Guv be “adamant that one size probably will not fit all”?

Another Stall on Coal Ash

Gov. Pat McCrory last week proposed legislation which would let the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) direct Duke Energy to ‘close’ its coal ash ponds – an authority which DENR already inherently has through its clean water permitting process – but leave Duke proposing how such ‘closures’ would take place.

Strip away the double-talk and it’s clear that the governor is doing little more than asking for the General Assembly’s blessing on his plan to let Duke continue to call the shots on coal ash. Read More