NC Budget and Tax Center

Yesterday, the Labor and Economic Division released October labor market data for all 100 counties.  The headline of the release was that the unemployment rate had dropped in 98 counties, or nearly all, in the past month.  It sounds like good news, and it is, but the new data also show that many parts of the state are still struggling mightily. As the Budget and Tax Center has noted before, you have to look deeper than the headline unemployment number to know whether employment prospects are actually improving.

Such a look behind the unemployment rate does show signs of labor markets improving year-over-year, primarily along the lines seen at the state and national level.  The number of unemployed people has declined since October 2013 in all counties and a majority of counties have seen gains in employment.

But it is not “mission accomplished” time yet. The October county data contain worrying signs that should not be glossed over.

The majority of counties have not caught up to pre-recession levels of employment. Employment prospects are still slow to emerge in many counties, particularly in the rural parts of the state. Sixty six counties have more unemployed people in October 2014 than they did in December 2007.

Even more concerning, roughly one-third of the counties registered declines in employment from October 2013 through October of this year. Beyond not having caught up to pre-recession employment, many parts of our state have taken a step back over the last year. Again, this troubling trend is most concentrated in rural counties. Read More

Commentary

Candlelight-vigilHere’s something that would be worth an hour of your time tonight: North Carolinians Against Gun Violence will hold a vigil tonight at 7:00 p.m. to mark the second anniversary of Newtown and to organize against future tragedies of this kind.Sadly, there have been at least 91 school shootings in the U.S. just since the Newtown tragedy.

Here are the details:

WHEN : December 11, 2014 at 7pm – 8pm

WHERE: Judea Reform Congregation, 1933 W Cornwallis Rd in Durham  – Google map and directions

QUESTIONS? Contact Becky Ceartas  at ncgv@ncgv.org or 919-403-7665

Hope to see you there.

News

(Updated: Late this morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Loretta Biggs along with two other district court nominees, sending them to the Senate floor for a full confirmation vote.  For more information, read below and here.)

North Carolina’s latest nominee for a seat on the federal bench, Loretta Copeland Biggs, is slated for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee today, and if approved moves one-step closer to a confirmation vote on the Senate floor.

But Biggs — like several other pending nominees hanging on as Congress approaches adjournment for the year — may be running out of time.

As The Hill reports this morning, Senate Republicans are digging in their heels and hoping to delay votes on the President’s nominees until January, when they take control of the chamber. At that point, all those who are pending will have to be renominated and will face a tougher road to confirmation.

That’s more than 170 nominations, including nine district court nominees who’ve already been approved by Judiciary and another three (with Biggs) who are scheduled for a committee vote today, plus 18 State Department picks.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he’ll keep the Senate in session until his colleagues vote at least on the President’s picks for the head of  Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Sarah Saldaña;  head of Social Security Administration, Carolyn Colvin; and the nine pending federal judges.

Advocacy groups are also pushing for floor votes on Biggs and the other two court nominees who’ll hopefully come out of committee today.

Biggs’ nomination has been pending for a little under three months and appeared to be heading smoothly toward confirmation after receiving support from both home state senators, Kay Hagan and Richard Burr.  If confirmed, she’ll fill the seat vacated by U.S. District Judge James Beaty in the state’s Middle District.

Meanwhile, the candidate named to fill the country’s longest running federal district court vacancy — now open in eastern North Carolina for 3,287 days — Jennifer May-Parker, has yet to receive even a committee hearing. That’s because Sen. Burr, who once supported her, refuses to return the “blue slip” to get May-Parker a date on the Judiciary Committee calendar.

Click here for more on the tortured history of North Carolina’s federal judicial vacancies and the lack of diversity of those who have served. 

Commentary

ICYMI, the editorial page of the Charlotte Observer features another great op-ed this morning that was co-authored by former Raleigh mayor, Charles Meeker (a Democrat) and former Charlotte mayor, Richard Vinroot (a Republican). The subject: the urgent need for redistricting reform.

As their honors note:

As former mayors of North Carolina’s two largest cities, we know how important it is to have a government that fairly represents the people, and in which voters have confidence. And we believe that the way we have drawn maps in North Carolina for the past five decades or longer has undermined citizens’ confidence in our government, created highly partisan legislative districts and caused gridlock.

We also believe that North Carolinians have had enough. For that reason, we, and other North Carolinians who care about the value of our vote and the future of our state, are supporting a transparent, impartial and fair process for redistricting. We urge you to join us.

The model we support is based on the way Iowa has drawn its maps since 1980. Their maps are required to have districts that are compact, contiguous and follow state and federal law. They cannot be drawn based on the political makeup of districts, past voter turnout or other partisan factors. Instead, the maps are drawn by professionals, reviewed by citizens and then approved or disapproved by the legislature in a timely fashion.

We respectfully urge the newly elected members of the N.C. General assembly – many of whom have expressed support for our proposal in their public statements – to work with us by passing impartial, fair, nonpartisan redistricting reform in 2015. In our view, there is no better way to show respect for our voters and improve our democracy!

To which all a caring and thinking person can say is “hear, hear!” and “if only a majority of our current General Assembly was comprised of caring and thinking politicians.”

Click here to read the rest of the op-ed.

Commentary

Thom TillisWell, this is off to a good start. Senator-elect Thom Tillis is already staking  out a less-than-courageous profile in his new job by essentially parroting the absurd remarks of his new colleague Richard Burr on the CIA torture report and attempting to make it a partisan issue — even though people of both major parties clearly bear responsibility for the atrocities.

Tillis gets a small measure of credit for admitting the torture — what he calls “those practices” — was wrong, but then he makes the illogical assertion that releasing the information will hurt American “credibility.”

Uh, excuse us Senator-elect. but here’s what will enhance American credibility going forward: telling the truth and not torturing people. As this morning’s editorial in the Wilmington Star News correctly notes:

“We pride ourselves on our sense of morality, justice and humanity, and should feel shame that the inhumane tactics described in the report were sanctioned on our behalf.

Moreover, they didn’t work. The report, which was gleaned from more than 6 million pages of information, found that in most cases subjecting enemy combatants to brutality produced no useful information.

That is hardly a revelation. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who spent 51/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has repeatedly denounced torture and other harsh tactics as cruel and ineffective. His observations have been backed up by experienced military interrogators who said that many captives will make up stories or offer bad information just to stop the physical or mental pain….

We cannot profess to be of superior moral fiber if we embrace the same disregard for human life and dignity that compels us to label terrorists as evil.”

Unlike Richard Burr, North Carolina’s new senator has six years to worry about re-election. You’d think he could take a break from partisan demagoguery for at least the first few months of his time in D.C.