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North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in January, but the decline is largely because the labor force continues to shrink not because of significant gains in employment, according to the NC Budget & Tax Center.  Over the last year, the state labor force contracted by 105,600 workers, more than 1.3 percent, to the lowest levels in three years.

“Only 4 out of every 10 unemployed workers found jobs in the last year,” said Allan Freyer, BTC Public Policy Analyst. “If North Carolina is going to see a healthy long-term recovery in employment growth, we need to see all jobless workers moving into jobs, rather than out of the labor force.”

Freyer believes that most of the job growth we’re seeing in North Carolina is due to improvements in the national economy, rather than something special happening in the Tarheel State:

“In recent months, we’ve heard claims that policies enacted in the first half of 2013 generated extra special job growth in the second half of 2013. But the reality is far different,” Freyer said. “Across every meaningful measure of labor market progress, the second half of 2013 failed to perform better than the second half of 2012.”

Freyer appeared on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views over the weekend to discuss the state’s struggling economy. For an excerpt of that radio interview, click below. You can listen to the full segment here.

The Budget & Tax Center’s takeaway message on the latest jobs report: North Carolina needs to create jobs at a much faster rate than the national average and its own recent historical performance.  Along with creating more jobs overall, the state needs to create better jobs that pay enough to allow workers and their families to make ends meet.

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Dean BakerWhat’s the real deal with the American economy? Where do things stand? What’s holding us back? What about the situation in North Carolina? Please join us Wednesday, March 26, as we tackle these topics and more with one of America’s leading economists, Dean Baker.

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is frequently cited in economics reporting in major media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, CNBC and NPR. He writes a weekly column for theguardian.com, The Huffington Post, Truthout and his blog, Beat the Press,, which features commentary on economic reporting. His analyses have appeared in many major publications, including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, the Financial Times, and the Daily News (New York). He received his doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan.

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Minimum wage 2(Cross-posted from Off the Charts - the blog of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)

Raising the minimum wage would help the economy, CBPP Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein writes in the latest edition of the CQ Researcher.

Two well-established facts help back up this argument, Bernstein says:

The first fact is that the American economy is made up of 70 percent consumer spending.

Economists widely agree that an extra dollar earned by a wealthy person is less likely to be spent than an extra dollar earned by a low-income person….

The second fact Read More

Bloomberg.com reports this morning that austerity policies appear to be quickly guiding Greece toward a “1930′s style depression.”  Of course, the United Kingdom is already learning about the impact of failed Hoover-style economics.

Now, when will the American political right (and much of the so-called middle) wake up to the hard truth that slashing public spending is the last thing  we need to do in the U.S. and a surefire way to stop the progress made over the past three-plus years?