News

employmentState officials report that North Carolina gained of 17,200 jobs in October, dropping the state’s overall jobless rate to 6.3 percent.

Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement Friday saying with those gains North Carolina has now recovered all of the jobs lost during the Great Recession.

Economists acknowledge that the number of payroll jobs are above pre-recession level, but that’s only half of the story.

According to analyst John Quinterno of South By North Strategies, while North Carolina now has slightly more jobs than it did in December 2007 when the recession began, the state also has 28.4 percent more unemployed residents than it did almost seven years ago.

Here’s how Quinterno’s group explains the data:

Note that the return of North Carolina’s payroll size to the pre-recession level does not mean that the state’s labor market has recovered. Over the past 6.75 years, North Carolina has needed not only to replace the jobs lost during the recession, but also to add jobs to keep pace with the growth of the working-age population.

By one estimate, North Carolina still is 441,000 payroll jobs short of the number it should have added since late 2007 to accommodate the 11 percent rate of population growth that has occurred since then. At the current pace of net job growth, it would take another 72 months to fill that gap, holding all else equal.

“Although North Carolina has experienced job growth in 2014, the pace of growth has been modest,” noted Quinterno. “Over the first 10 months of the year, payroll employment in North Carolina expanded by 1.9 percent. The comparable rate in 2013 was 2 percent, and in 2012, the comparable rate was 1.6 percent. These rates are consistent with a sluggish recovery.”

In contrast to the payroll data, the household data recorded October pointed to a labor market that has yet to recover the ground lost during the recession. Last month, the statewide unemployment rate dipped to 6.3 percent from 6.7 percent, while the number of unemployed individuals fell by 16,685 (-5.4 percent). At the same time, the number of employed North Carolinians rose (+17,508, +0.4 percent). And the size of the labor force essentially held steady at 4.6 million persons.

Over the year, the statewide unemployment rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, dropping to 6.7 percent from 7.5 percent, with the number of unemployed North Carolinians decreasing by 54,551 persons (-15.7 percent). However, 47.8 percent of the decline was attributable to people who left the labor force entirely rather than to those who became employed. If those 26,104 leavers from the labor force were added back and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate in October would have equaled 6.8 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 6.6 percent.

News

VoteWhat were state GOP lawmakers’ intentions when they enacted House Bill 589, one of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation?

That’s the question the groups challenging the law want answered by legislators they served with subpoenas last December, asking for emails, letters, reports and other records used when pushing for voting law changes in 2013.

Plenty has transpired since then. The voting cases pending in Winston-Salem ran through the federal courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of a stay of the new law’s provisions, pending the November elections.

Now though the court and the parties are digging in as a mid-summer 2015 trial date looms.

And in an order issued yesterday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi E. Peake told state lawmakers they could no longer hide behind a claim of legislative privilege and withhold certain categories of communications relevant to the claims asserted in the pending cases.

Among the documents sought are lawmakers’ communications with constituents, state agencies, lobbyists and political organizations regarding the reasons for voting law changes; studies and reports on voter fraud, race and ethnicity of voters; and analyses of costs associated with administering the new provisions.

State lawmakers’ files may be one of the few sources of proof for plaintiffs hoping to establish that those legislators had a discriminatory purpose in enacting House Bill 589 – a critical element in proving certain of plaintiffs’ constitutional claims and in obtaining future preclearance relief under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act.

In her ruling, Peake held that communications between legislators and third parties regarding House Bill 589 are not privileged and must be disclosed. “Third parties” would include any person or group beyond lawmakers and their staff — constituents, state agencies, lobbyists and political organizations, for example.

Peake also ruled that communications between lawmakers and outside counsel before the lawsuits were filed on August 12, 2013  are not automatically privileged and may also be subject to disclosure. The state defendants must provide a log of any such communications being withheld as privileged, with sufficient detail  for the parties and the court to assess whether they can be withheld or should be produced.

Communications between lawmakers and staff, however, remain privileged and need not be identified on a log or otherwise disclosed.

The state defendants still have the option of objecting to Peake’s order and asking for a review by the judge handling the cases, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder.

If that happens, it may be January before documents start arriving, according to Allison Riggs, an attorney from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice representing groups challenging the law.

“We’re pleased with the ruling,” Riggs said. “We’re eager to get this relevant discovery and build the case for trial next summer. The state needs to comply with the order and produce this discovery quickly.”

For more background on the dispute over documents in the voting cases, read here.

Read Judge Peake’s order here.

NC Budget and Tax Center

As our minds turn to food in preparation for Thanksgiving, there continue to be too many North Carolinians who struggle to bring food to the table each and every day. For these families, a lack of resources represents the greatest challenge in ensuring nutritious meals are available but another factor is access and proximity to stores that sell food.

North Carolina’s food deserts, or areas where access to food is made difficult by distance to store locations, can be found in both urban and rural settings. They affect more than 1.5 million North Carolinians and nearly 350 neighborhoods (or census tracts). For people living in a food desert, there is an association with poorer health outcomes such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as an increased likelihood to having difficulty putting food on the table.

Like community-eligibility that targets students in schools, there are effective place-based initiatives that can address hunger in North Carolina’s communities by reducing the number of food deserts. Some initiatives have already been piloted here in NC, others have been established in other states and still others are being developed by local community leaders in North Carolina right now.

  1. Provide convenience store owners with loans to support equipment and food purchases that increase access to healthy food options. Pitt County health department has had success in supporting convenience stores as they provide greater food options and business owners have found this expansion of their inventory to be profitable.
  2. Establish a Healthy Food Financing Fund at the state level to provide favorable loan terms or grants to businesses committed to locating in food deserts and actively serving low-income residents. Already the federal government has provided funding for private loans that support financing projects that locate food outlets in food deserts and North Carolina’s State Employee’s Credit Union has benefited. In other states, like Pennsylvania, where state level funds have been established, outcomes have extended beyond addressing hunger. Eighty-eight new or improved grocery stores have been located in underserved communities, impacting 400,000 residents. but In addition, 5,000 jobs have been created or retained and an additional $540,000 in local tax revenue was generated from a single store in Philadelphia.
  3. Reduce barriers to local grassroots efforts to form food cooperatives in food deserts in the state. Already in Greensboro and Raleigh neighborhood leaders are pursuing the establishment of grocery stores cooperatively owned to serve their communities that currently lack healthy food options. But as was presented at the recent state House legislative Committee on Food Desert Zones, there are barriers to establishing cooperatives that could be addressed through state policy so that more communities could come together to address hunger and food access.

Policies can support our state’s work to ensure that no child goes hungry and no family struggles to put food on the table. Above are just a few ideas that should be on the table in 2015 as policymakers work to address the challenges that North Carolinians face in accessing nutritious meals. The benefits to those families extend into the community and strengthen our economy’s capacity for job creation and growth.

Commentary

The list is no doubt long and growing rapidly — be sure to check out this morning’s edition of the “Friday Follies” for more — but the always-entertaining (if rarely intentionally) State Senator Andrew Brock has to be a leading contender in the category of “most inane response by a North Carolina politician” when he tweeted the following this morning:

Commentary

There were lots of compelling moments in the President’s speech last night on immigration policy. Especially during the moments in which he appealed to the better angels of our nature with powerful rhetoric and Biblical citations, Obama reminded us of why he can be such an inspiring figure to so many Americans. For example:

“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?”

What appealed most to me, however, were the moments when the President talked simple practicalities, as he did in this passage:

“But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants — in every state, of every race and nationality — will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.” (Emphasis supplied.)

He’s completely right, of course. Short of turning the U.S. into a police state, deportation of these people simply ain’t gonna happen, no matter what the xenophobes and Tea Partiers say. Indeed, it’s one of the great ironies of modern American politics Read More