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North Carolina had 20,000 fewer people working in July than the previous month, as the state’s unemployment ticked up slightly to 6.5 percent.

The July jobs report that came out Monday morning (click here to read) puts the state’s unemployment rate at 6.5 percent, much lower than the 8.1 percent unemployment the state experienced a year ago, in July 2013.

The national unemployment rate is 6.2 percent.

July’s unemployment rate in North Carolina was an uptick from recent months, when the unemployment rate dipped as low as 6.2 percent in April.

North Carolina has seen its labor pool shrink steadily as it has emerged from the recession, and there were 19,848 fewer people receiving paychecks in July than there were in June.

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June’s jobs numbers are out for North Carolina, showing that the state has held on to its unemployment rate of 6.4 percent for the second straight month.

Jobs-buttonThe national unemployment rate was 6.1 percent for June.

The North Carolina numbers for June released by N.C. Commerce Department show a much lower unemployment rate than a year ago, when unemployment was at 8.3 percent and one of the highest rates in the nation.

This month’s job report (click here to read) also shows the state’s labor pool is still shrinking, with 8,577 less people working in June than May.

Over the last year, the state’s labor force has shrunk by nearly 12,000, while the ranks of unemployed dropped by about 90,000 people, according to North Carolina job numbers.

That difference (a shrinking labor pool corresponding with a much larger drop in the numbers of the unemployed) has lead some economists to attribute North Carolina’s drop in its official unemployment rate not to a healthy economy, but to large numbers of long-term unemployed people dropping out of the workforce completely after last year’s cuts to unemployment benefits.

“There is zero evidence that cutting unemployment benefits in North Carolina did anything to spur job growth,” wrote Washington-based economist Dean Baker in an editorial in the News & Observer earlier this month. “There is much evidence that it led those who saw their benefits end to give up looking for work and to drop out of the labor force.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/11/4000035/zero-evidence-that-benefit-cuts.html#storylink=cp
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/02/13/3619704/benefit-cuts-pushed-people-out.html#storylink=cpy

Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislative leaders disagree, and say those changes to the unemployment system and North Carolina’s subsequent rejection of federally-funded long-term unemployment help has put North Carolina in a better economic position.

“Yes, there are some people who probably took jobs they didn’t want instead of staying on unemployment,” McCrory said earlier this week in an interview with Charlotte’s WFAE radio program (discussion begins at 35:00).

“By the way, in my career, I’ve taken jobs that I don’t want,” McCrory said.  He added, “but it gets you in the door, it gets you working and it gets you off the government payroll.”

Click here to read the entire release on North Carolina’s jobs report for June.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, in an interview aired yesterday on a Charlotte radio station, downplayed cuts to unemployment benefits caused by made this year to the state’ s unemployment insurance system.

“We didn’t take away unemployment benefits,” McCrory said on WFAE’s “Charlotte Talks” program in response to a question about cuts to the unemployment insurance system. “We didn’t extend them. We were following the existing policy.”

Audio clip from WFAE in Charlotte

The state, through legislation signed into law in February by McCrory, did cut both the length of time a person can collect unemployment (reduced from six months to a sliding scale of 12 to 20 weeks) and also cut the maximum weekly benefit from $535 to $350 a week.  The cuts were part of an extensive plan to repay more than $2.6 billion the state unemployment insurance system borrowed during the height of the recession.

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WRAL aired this documentary last night on the state’s new unemployment insurance, focusing on the estimated 170,000 longterm unemployed who were rendered ineligible for federal unemployment help when the N.C. General Assembly adopted changes for the state’s unemployment system.

North Carolina, which has the third highest unemployment in the state, was the only state to reject the federal funds as it sought an expedited way to repay $2.5 billion borrowed by the unemployment system in the height of the recession. Businesses saw a modest increase in what they pay into the system, while the length of time and amount of benefits were significantly reduced for those who find themselves suddenly without jobs.

Veteran WRAL anchor Bill Leslie talked with people whose benefits had been cut off, to see how they’ve fared.

You can watch the video here, or below.

Gov. Pat McCrory was in Asheville yesterday when he told the Council on Independent Business Owners that changes to the state’s tax and unemployment systems were being misunderstood by the state’s journalists.

From the Mountain XPress, Asheville’s weekly alternative newspaper:

“This is too complex for the journalists,” McCrory said, to laughter from the CIBO members. “They don’t have economics degrees, they’ve not been in business. I respect them greatly, but you get it. This is what we have to do to rebuild our economy. It’s not easy. I empathize with the people being impacted, but my goal is to get these people back into jobs.”

McCrory particularly defended a controversial cut in unemployment benefits. He said that the state asked to lower the benefits to the levels of surrounding states, but the federal government refused, as its commitment to backing and extending unemployment benefits during the financial crisis required states to keep their benefits the same.

He also told the crowd that he wanted to introduce performance pay for teachers but that “the unions are stopping us from doing that,” according to the Mountain Xpress article.

North Carolina, unlike many other states, doesn’t have teacher unions, and has laws that prohibit collective bargaining in public sector jobs like teaching.

Mark Binker over at WRAL, in a post this afternoon, pointed out that McCrory, despite lodging criticism, doesn’t have an economics degree.

We here at N.C. Policy Watch have previously written about other misstatements McCrory has made about this year’s drastic changes to the state’s unemployment system. McCrory has (inaccurately) blamed the Obama Administration for not preventing the July 1 unemployment cliff that led to 70,000 people losing federal unemployment benefits.

Those changes were a result of legislation passed by the N.C. General Assembly and signed into law by McCrory. (Click here to read more.)