NC Budget and Tax Center

Recovery incomplete or absent in many North Carolina counties, February jobs numbers show

For all of the positive growth numbers touted at the statewide level in the last year, the recovery ranges from partial to virtually nonexistent in many parts of the state. The headline unemployment rate dropped for most counties between February 2014 and this year, but unfortunately that is not a sign that all in well. As can be seen when you look at the current labor market conditions and how counties stack up to where they were before the recession, there are many communities where employment is still below pre-recession levels, some communities that actually lost jobs during the last year, and people looking for work outnumber job openings in most counties.

Most counties have not returned to pre-recession levels of employment. While the last few years have seen the state make some good economic strides as the national economy has continued to improve, it has not done enough to get most communities back to the level of vitality that existed before the Great recession. The majority of counties in North Carolina (70 out of 100), had fewer jobs in February 2015 than they did in 2007. In fact, the unemployment rate is still higher now than it was in 2007 in more than 80 counties across the state.

Unemployed people outnumber job openings in almost every county. Only 8 counties in North Carolina have at least as many job openings as unemployed people. Many counties have 2 or 3 unemployed people for every job opening, and in some counties there are as many as 5 or 6 unemployed people competing for every job. The number of people who are looking for work did come down in most counties from February 2014 through this year, but there are still far more people looking for work than there are jobs. In fact, roughly three-quarters of the counties had more people looking for work in February of this year than they did in 2007. There are still too few jobs for those who want to work which not impacts jobless workers but everyone as employers aren’t compelled to provide wage increases to keep or attract talent.

Many counties took a step back over the last year. While it is cause for pause that most counties have not returned to pre-recession levels of employment, the fact that almost half of the counties (47) lost employment from February of 2014 to February of 2015 is cause for a full-on double-take. 2014 was the strongest year for job creation since the start of the Great Recession, yet nearly half of the counties lost jobs during that time. That’s an extremely alarming sign. It is natural to expect some counties to grow faster than others, but a truly strong growth period should not be leaving so much of the state worse off.

All told, the February county labor market data show that North Carolina is not uniformly on the road to prosperity. There are pockets of very strong growth in and around the major metropolitan areas, but the labor market outside of the urban centers is much weaker. As the General Assembly talks about another round of tax cuts, and spending more on incentives, remember that these have been the proposed answers for several years, and they have not delivered the goods for many communities in our state.

Commentary

N&O reporter to headline luncheon on workplace fraud

Please join us next week for a special NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon —

“Fraud in the workplace: How numerous North Carolina employers are cheating their competitors and stealing from employees and taxpayers (and what should be done about it)”

Click here to register

There’s a multimillion dollar crime spree underway in North Carolina. Unfortunately, save for the efforts of a few intrepid journalists and lawyers, it’s a problem that’s mostly being ignored and swept under the rug. The issue is wage theft and the “misclassification” of workers by employers. As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported in a special report last fall entitled “Contract to Cheat”:

“Employers treat many of these laborers as independent contractors. It’s a tactic that costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year. Yet when it comes to public projects, government regulators have done nearly nothing about it, even when the proof is easy to get.

The workers don’t have protections. The companies don’t withhold taxes. The regulators don’t seem to care.”

Mandy Locke

Please join us as we explore this huge and poorly understood problem and how state lawmakers and regulators might properly address it with the lead author of the “Contract to Cheat” series, investigative reporter Mandy Locke.

Since joining the N&O in 2004, Locke has written extensively about the legal system, child welfare and hospital disputes. Her investigative work has been honored nationally by the Michael Kelly Award and the Gerald Loeb Award for business reporting.

Locke will be joined by Raleigh businessman Doug Burton, President and Owner of Whitman Masonry. Burton is one of the numerous North Carolina employers who treats his workers fairly, plays by the rules and is regularly disadvantaged as a result of the state’s lax law enforcement in this area.

When: Wednesday, January 28th, 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 – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Why GOP’s proposed ACA amendment would take things in precisely the wrong direction

The conservatives in Congress are already queuing up to offer proposals that would gut amend Obamacare. For instance, leaders McConnell and Boehner are already proposing to raise the threshold number of hours that employees must work per week from 30 to 40 in order to trigger the mandate that their employer provide coverage.

As Paul Van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains on the blog Off the Charts, this will be a destructive idea that will actually lead to less full-time employment:

ACA work thresholdCritics of health reform claim that employers are shifting some employees to part-time work to avoid offering them health insurance.  But the data provide scant evidence of such a shift.

Moreover, raising the threshold for mandating coverage from 30 to 40 hours would make a shift toward part-time employment much more likely — not less so.

Only about 7 percent of employees work 30 to 34 hours (that is, at or modestly above health reform’s 30-hour threshold), but 44 percent of employees work 40 hours a week and thus would be vulnerable to cuts in their hours if the threshold rose to 40 hours.  Under the Boehner-McConnell proposal, employers could easily cut back large numbers of employees from 40 to 39 hours so they wouldn’t have to offer them health coverage.

The bottom line according to Van de Water:

There’s little evidence to date that health reform has caused a shift to part-time work.  There’s every reason to expect the impact to be small as a share of total employment, as we have explained.  And raising the cutoff for the employer mandate from 30 to 40 hours a week would be a step in the wrong direction.

Commentary

Pittenger now denying he made (recorded) anti-LGBT comments

Robert PittengerThe story of Congressman Robert Pittenger’s clearly genuine but remarkably disturbing comments in favor of the right of employers to fire people because of their sexual orientation just keeps getting weirder. Now, Pittenger is a denying the substance of the comments that he once “stood by” and that were recorded in full. Think Progress has the full story:

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) is now claiming that he did not make comments supporting anti-LGBT employment discrimination, as reported by ThinkProgress earlier this month.

At a town hall event in Ballantyne, North Carolina, ThinkProgress asked Pittenger: “Do you think businesses should be able to fire someone because they are gay or lesbian?” He replied that businesses should have the “autonomy” to fire workers for being LGBT, and asked rhetorically: “Why should government be there to impose on the freedoms we enjoy?”

The Charlotte Observer picked up the story, and reported that when they called Pittenger to confirm the quotes, the congressman “stood by his comments.” Read more

Commentary

Profile in hate: Congressman Robert Pittenger’s homophobic blather

Robert PittengerAn editorial in this morning’s Charlotte Observer shines a light on the noxious views of North Carolina congressman Robert Pittenger:

Is it OK for a company to fire someone solely because he is gay?

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte thinks so. It’s one of “the freedoms we enjoy” as Americans, he says. Private employers should have the freedom to discriminate against employees based on their sexual orientation, Pittenger says, and government shouldn’t take that ability away.

After a town hall meeting in Ballantyne this month, a reporter from the liberal political blog ThinkProgress, Alice Ollstein, asked Pittenger if he supported laws to protect gays in the workplace. Pittenger compared the right to fire gay workers to smoking bans.

“Do you ban smoking or do people have the right to private property? I think people have the right to private property,” Pittenger told Ollstein….

In a statement to the Observer editorial board Tuesday, Pittenger stood by his comments. He emphasized that he does not discriminate in his hiring and firing, but said the question should be left to the free market.”

The editorial rightfully goes on to expose the congressman’s opinion as vacuous hogwash indistinguishable from the hateful attitudes of those who would discriminate against potential employees based on race or religion. The congressman needs to rethink his views on this matter and issue an apology ASAP.