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Dean BakerIn case you missed it, be sure to check out the latest from one of the nation’s sharpest economists, Dr. Dean Baker on the one-year anniversary of North Carolina’s harshest-in-the-nation cuts to unemployment insurance. In a post that originally appeared on the website of Baker’s Center for Economic and Policy Research, Baker specifically takes one of North Carolina’s right-wing think tank denizens to task for his recent column in the Wall Street Journal celebrating the cuts.

As Baker notes, the local pundit is simply and plainly wrong in his contention that the cuts are responsible for a job boom in the state — or that such a boom is even occurring: Read More

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As Dean Baker notes this morning, the national economic news is encouraging. In addition to the record high Dow Jones average, Baker points out:

“The economy added 288,000 jobs in June, making it the fifth consecutive month in which the economy added over 200,000 jobs. This is the longest stretch of 200,000 plus job growth since before the recession. The job gains were broadly based. Retail was the biggest gainer, adding 40,200 jobs, with professional and technical services adding 30,100 jobs. Manufacturing added 17,000 jobs for the second month in a row.

The news was also positive in the household survey with the unemployment rate falling to 6.1 percent, a new low for the recovery. This was due to people entering the labor force and finding jobs; the employment-to-population ratio rose to 59.0 percent. This is a new high for the recovery, but still 4.0 percentage points below its pre-recession level. Another piece of positive news is that the percentage of people who are unemployed because they voluntarily quit their jobs rose to 9.0 percent, the highest since the collapse of Lehman. This is a sign of growing confidence in the labor market.”

Unfortunately, the economic news is not so encouraging in North Carolina. As Allan Freyer of the Budget and Tax Center pointed out in a news release on Tuesday: Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

We keep hearing that North Carolina’s economy is turning around. But while it’s true that we’re slowly making progress in replacing the jobs lost during the Great Recession, the bad news is that the overwhelming majority of these new jobs just don’t pay enough to make ends meet. In fact, many don’t pay enough to keep workers out of poverty, despite working full time. Check out the latest Prosperity Watch for details.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Sharon DeckerThe unfortunate quest to privatize the state’s business recruitment and job creation efforts took a big step forward yesterday, when the Senate agreed to a House proposal creating a new nonprofit partnership to oversee much of the state’s economic development efforts.

This misguided proposal is a bad deal for North Carolina taxpayers, businesses, and workers—schemes for privatizing economic development have repeatedly proven to be ineffective at job creation, wasteful of taxpayer dollars, and prone to financial mismanagement, conflicts of interest and pay-to-play incentive granting, and the inability to raise private funds in many of the states where they’ve been tried.

The only good news is that the General Assembly finally ended up supporting the House-passed measure, which includes somewhat better taxpayer protections than the original Senate measure.

Perhaps most importantly, the House bill did not include a new incentive program for the film industry, an extra policy tacked onto the Senate version two weeks ago. Given ongoing controversy over the effectiveness of film incentives, the Commerce privatization bill was just not the appropriate place for creating an entirely new incentive program.

A second important improvement over the original Senate measure involves the inclusion of new ethics rules. While the Senate suggested allowing the new nonprofit to develop and implement its own code of ethics—potentially creating legal loopholes for problematic ethical behavior—the final House bill requires that all board members, officers, and staff members remain subject to the existing state ethics act, just like all other state appointees and employees. This will protect taxpayers from the kinds of ethics scandals that have plagued other states’ privatization efforts, as in Wisconsin, Florida, and Texas.

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NC Budget and Tax Center

AF-Jobs

As long as North Carolina’s overall job creation remains anemic and rural regions continue to lag behind the rest of the state, it will be critical to adequately invest in proven economic development strategies like increasing small business lending, supporting development in economically-distressed communities, and strengthening the nexus between cutting edge research and innovative industrial development in key sectors. These are many of the types of investments that made North Carolina a leader in innovative economic development over the past 30 years.

Although significantly less supportive of these efforts than in past years, the House budget proposal for FY 2014-2015 does a better job of funding the state’s most effective economic development investments than does the Senate proposal, which relies on largely unproven strategies like fracking.

Both proposals are ultimately constrained by the continued commitment to tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations that are also unlikely to deliver on the job creation promises that their proponents have made.

In the years since 2011, the General Assembly has largely dismantled much of the state’s most innovative economic development efforts. It eliminated the nationally-acclaimed rural development entity—the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, dramatically scaled back investments in the biotech sector, abolished the state’s regional economic development planning partnerships, and eliminated state support for 13 nonprofits performing community-based economic development in the state’s most distressed communities. Both budgets continue this long-term trend of dismantling North Carolina’s system—the House just restores some of the lost investments.

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