As this week’s edition of The Weekly Briefing made plain, state leaders remain absurdly out of touch with the economic reality on the ground in North Carolina. The following announcement from colleagues at the N.C. Justice Center highlights this problem once more

Jobless workers struggle even as Division of Employment Security announces $600 million in tax cuts to employers
Employment remains more than 4 percentage points below pre-recession levels, according to October data 

Jobless workers continue to struggle with an economy that fails to provide enough jobs and an unemployment insurance system that is ill-equipped to deliver partial wage replacement to stabilize the economy, even as North Carolina’s Division of Employment Security announced $600 million in tax cuts to employers.

Employment levels as a share of the population remains more than 4 percentage points below pre-recession levels, according to today’s announcement on labor market conditions for October 2015.

Last month’s state employment rate was 5.7 percent, the same level as one year ago. However, the number of unemployed North Carolinians has increased over that period by 11,591 jobless workers. The national unemployment rate was 5.0 percent in October, dropping by 0.7 percentage points over the year.

“North Carolina should not be issuing tax cuts for employers when we have failed to reach what are generally agreed to be safe levels for our state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, Director of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. “Instead, our state policymakers need to re-balance their approach to ensure the system can deliver partial wage replacement to jobless workers and in so doing serve as a stabilizing force in the economy.”

Important trends in the October data also include:

  • The percent of North Carolinians employed is still near historic lows, and below the nation. October numbers showed 57.5 percent of North Carolinians were employed, leaving the state well below employment levels commonplace before the Great Recession. In the mid-2000s, employment levels reached a peak of about 63 percent. The percent of North Carolinians with a job remains below the national average, as it has been since the Great Recession.
  • There are still more North Carolinians out of work than before the Great Recession. There were more than 270,000 North Carolinians looking for work in October, almost 50,000 more than before the Great Recession.
  • North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system only provided temporary wage replacement to 22,545 North Carolinians. The number of jobless North Carolinians receiving unemployment insurance has dropped precipitously since 2013, ranking us 49th in the country on this measure and hindering the ability of the program to serve as a stabilizing force in the economy.

“North Carolina’s labor market is still too weak to ensure jobs are available for all those who seek employment,” Sirota said. “This affects all of us, as wages are falling short of the growth needed to boost the economy in the immediate and long-term.”

For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out the Budget & Tax Center’s weekly Prosperity Watch platform.


Don’t miss the next N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Closing the health coverage gap for North Carolinians living with substance use disorders
Featuring Dr. Lonise Bias of the Len and Jay Bias Association and Jeff Matkins of Insight Human Services.

Click here to register

North Carolina, along with every other state, has an unprecedented opportunity to expand health coverage to its most vulnerable residents. Currently, 30 states plus the District of Columbia have broadened Medicaid eligibility with financing available from the Affordable Care Act. So far, legislators in North Carolina, along with the Governor, have blocked these federal funds from expanding access to health care, boosting the state’s economy and bolstering rural hospitals.

Closing the health insurance coverage gap in North Carolina would provide better access to medical services and treatment for 500,000 working poor families. Many of the people locked out of the system have treatable, chronic diseases. An estimated 150,000 are living with substance use disorders. Millions in our state are in long-term recovery from addictions and need ongoing support to remain healthy.

Join us as we discuss these and related issues with two very special experts on the subject:

Dr. Lonise Bias

Dr. Lonise Bias is the Founder and President of the Len and Jay Bias Foundation. Through her pain at the loss of two sons, Dr. Bias has created youth and family programs to reclaim the community and has inspired thousands. She will share her story with us about her son, Len Bias’ tragic death of cocaine intoxication in June 1986 just two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics.

Jeff Matkins

Jeff Matkins, Chief Operating Officer of Insight Human Services (formerly known as the Partnership for a Drug Free NC), works with colleagues in 60 counties to provide substance use prevention, intervention and treatment. Jeff will discuss how sound policy decisions such as Medicaid expansion would help provide access to care and improve the lives of thousands of North Carolinians.

Click here to register

When: Monday, November 30, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: Thanks to a generous donor, admission is FREE and includes a box lunch. Donations, however, are welcome.

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or

Click here to register


Here’s some shocking news: the big eggbeaters that North Carolina’s political leaders had touted as an alternative to the costly and time consuming (but proven) pollution control methods that had been planned at one time to clean up the Triangle’s Jordan Lake are, in a word, a “bust.”

This is from the Department of Environmental Quality’s preliminary report after a year of solar powered water churning:

“There were no statistically significant differences in pH and Chl a values at all three project treatment versus control site comparisons during SolarBee deployment, with the exception of significantly higher Chl a concentrations at the Haw River project site compared to its control site. Morgan Creek project area sites had the same or lower percent exceedances for both pH and Chl a than their control sites in New Hope Creek, but all were above water quality impairment criteria. The Haw River project area site had higher percent exceedances for both pH and Chl a than its control site. These preliminary results indicate that nutrient related water quality conditions did not significantly improve in areas of the lake where SolarBees were deployed.”

Who would have guessed?

No word yet on whether the report will cause state officials to reconsider their harebrained delaying tactic toward what needs to be done. If the response of conservative politicians to any number of far more dire environmental problems plaguing the state and the world are any indication, there’s reason for concern.

Syrian refugee

Image: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The common sense responses to the irrational fear-mongering taking place over Syrian refugees in recent days are so numerous and compelling as to leave any caring and thinking person shaking his or her head in embarrassment at the performance of public officials of both parties.

As one friend of NC Policy Watch wrote to us this week:

About one million people arrive in the US every day, by land, sea and air. (Yes, many are Americans; but many are foreigners who just show a passport and get waved through.)

Last year, for instance, there were 95,000 international arrivals among the 4.8 million people ‘deplaning’ at RDU.”

Meanwhile, our friend noted:

“The Governor is trying to create a national panic over a few thousand Syrian refugees, mostly women and children, who undergo several levels of vetting to be admitted to the US while also adamantly insisting that many thousands of persons be allowed to buy guns at gun shows with NO background checks. A terrorist’s dream!

In keeping with our friend’s take, here are some more actual details of the process that refugees must endure. As reporter Alicia Caldwell explains at Talking Points Memo, it is lengthy and thorough. This is from her article:

“Refugees who spent years waiting for approval to come to the United States said authorities asked detailed questions repeatedly in multiple interviews, including pressing them about their backgrounds and reasons for fleeing Syria. Nedal Al-Hayk, who was resettled in suburban Detroit with his family after a three-year wait, said officials interviewed him and his wife in separate rooms, asking repeatedly and in different ways where they were born, where their parents were born, what they did before and during the war or whether they were armed, part of a rebel group, supportive of the government or even politically outspoken.

Syrians initially file refugee claims with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which then refers them to the U.S. government. The process has no guarantee of approval and takes so long — Syrians wait nearly three years for approval to come to the U.S. — that experts said it would be a longshot for an extremist group to rely on the refugee program as a way to sneak someone into the United States. The Islamic State group has had far more success appealing to people already living inside the United States to commit or conspire to commit violence. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told lawmakers this week that roughly 70 people have been charged with crimes related to foreign-fighter activity and homegrown violent extremism since 2013.”

The bottom line: Of all the threats to domestic peace and tranquility in modern America, refugees are way, way down near the bottom of the list. Would that our quick-to-demagogue politicians were as concerned about the real threats (gun violence for example) as they are about the illusory ones. Read more on the vetting process that refugees must endure and who they are by clicking here.


North Carolinians believe that wealthy individuals and white people receive better treatment by the state courts than do black residents, Hispanics, low-income defendants or those without a lawyer, according to a recent Elon University Poll surveying registered voters about their political opinions and views of the state court system.

“The public in North Carolina have high levels of confidence in the local police force and generally believe most people receive fair outcomes in our court system,” said Kenneth Fernandez, an assistant professor at Elon and director of the poll.

“However, when asked specifically about how blacks, Hispanics, non-English speaking and low-income people are treated, most respondents acknowledge these groups frequently receive worse treatment by the courts.”

The poll included questions suggested by the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice, an independent commission convened earlier this year by Chief Justice Mark Martin of the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

More than 80 percent said they were at least somewhat confident in their local police or sheriff’s offices, though that number dropped when minority voters responded.

And nearly 66 percent said they were at least somewhat confident in the state court system.

But more than 75 percent of those surveyed believe the state courts are influenced by politics, and almost as many believe that judges’ decision are affected by the fact that they must seek election.

“These results may reflect the fact that North Carolina had the nation’s second-highest level of campaign spending in judicial elections in 2014,” said Jason Husser, an Elon assistant professor and assistant director of the poll. “Our state trails only Michigan in how much money all candidates spent in seeking seats on the bench.”

Elon’s live callers surveyed 1,234 residents between Oct. 29 and Nov. 2, 2015. The survey had a margin of error of 2.79 percentage points for a sample of North Carolinians weighted by age, gender, race and phone use.

See the full report of the poll here.