Commentary

NC economy falling further behind the rest of the U.S.

Apologists in the right-wing think tanks continue to do their best to cherry pick and spin the tale of a “Carolina Comeback.” Pretty soon there will be a release from the folks in one of the Pope-funded groups celebrating that North Carolina has the seventh fastest growth rate among states whose names include two “n’s during months with between seven and nine letters in their name.

But when it comes to the reality on the ground for real people, the data surrounding the North Carolina economy remain extremely sobering. NC Justice Center economist Patrick McHugh explains in this new release:

Unemployment declines sharply across the U.S. but grows in North Carolina

October 20, 2015 — Economic growth has reduced the number of unemployed across the United States, but such growth doesn’t seem to be happening in North Carolina.

September labor market data released this morning showed a 14 percent decline in the number of people looking for work over the last year, while the ranks of the unemployed in North Carolina grew over the same period.

“We’re creating jobs, but it’s not enough to actually get everyone back to work,” said Patrick McHugh, economic analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “With so many people out of work, there’s less pressure on employers to raise pay, which is part of why wages in North Carolina are falling further behind the nation.” Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina may turn its back on decades of progress on immigration

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which helped to make the United States into a more diverse and economically vibrant country. At the same time however, there is a bill (HB 318) sitting on Governor McCrory’s desk that would make it harder for immigrants to integrate into local communities, make police work more difficult, and hurt North Carolina’s reputation on the global stage.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 is one of the most important pieces of legislation in our nation’s history. The Act put immigrants from all countries of origin on equal footing, ending a quota system that essentially ensured most new immigrants came from Europe. This shift in policy allowed immigrants from around the world to realize the dream of joining the American experiment, and helped to fuel the last fifty years of economic growth in our country.

Graphic for Post - Immigrant Entrepreneurs Countries of Origin

Examining immigrant business owners’ countries of birth illustrates how opening immigration up to non-European counties has strengthened our economy. As the chart shows, immigrant proprietors have come to North Carolina from all over the world.

The immigrant business community is not just broad, it is deep as well. In North Carolina, immigrants make up less than 8% of the population, but own more than 20% of the main street businesses. In many communities, both rural and urban, immigrant entrepreneurs have helped to revitalize crumbling downtowns and neighborhoods. Read more

Commentary

Dreadful news from Senator Berger’s district

The Charlotte Business Journal reports that MillerCoors will close its brewery in Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s hometown of Eden. This is from the CBJ story:

“The closure will affect 520 workers at the brewery, which opened in 1978 and is one of Rockingham County’s largest employers.

Rockingham County Manager Lance Metzger said after the company made the announcement to its employees, they were allowed to go home for the day to spend time with family.

MillerCoors expanded its Eden plant just four years ago with the addition of about 70,000 square feet of warehousing space, and at that time employed about 600 at the plant.”

Meanwhile, Senator Berger will hold a presser this afternoon at 3:00 to tout his latest austerity state budget — you know, like the last two, which were supposed to have turned North Carolina into a job-creating juggernaut. One wonders if he’ll take the opportunity to highlight the new state law (which started in the Senate) that makes unemployment insurance even harder to collect.

Meanwhile, Governor McCrory is on top of things at this critical juncture in state policy debates. His office has distributed one press release today — an announcement that the Guv and First Lady will host an “adopt a pet” event next month at the Governor’s Mansion.

Commentary

As budget rumors swirl, what’s next for job training?

As rumors continue to swirl on Jones Street about a deal reached Friday night on the FY2015-2017 budget (details to be released Monday), investments in North Carolina’s community colleges and workforce development programs remain an area of critical concern. These programs are essential for improving the skills and competitiveness of our labor force and ensuring that low-income workers have accesses to the training resources they need to achieve long-term upward mobility in their careers and lifetime earnings.

Job training and basic adult education are critical investments that give workers—especially those at the bottom of the income scale—the tools they need to enter higher-wage occupations. For many, these programs can mean the difference between a life trapped in poverty-wage jobs and a life with opportunities to climb the career ladder and enter the middle class. Career pathway programs in particular create avenues for workers to build occupation-specific skills consecutively over the course of a career, creating stepping stones for long-term advancement within that occupation.

As a result, these programs provide a powerful policy-level antidote to income inequality and wage stagnation. As the recent State of Working North Carolina report points out, wages remained largely flat in decade prior to Great Recession and then experienced significant decline in years since the recession. This is largely the result of policies that allowed corporate executives and investors to earn the lion’s share of increased productivity achieved by technological advancements.

Building skills through job training and workforce development is an important tool for returning these productivity gains to workers—both by strengthening the ability of individual workers to bargain for better wages and by improving the overall recognized skills of the state’s workforce, a key competitive advantage that will create more quality jobs in North Carolina.

Given this reality, all eyes are on the emerging final budget deal to see how legislators treat these important programs. Thus far in the budget debate, the Senate has cut more funding for these investments than the House in its proposal. In the House proposal passed earlier this summer, the Community College System received a $52 million cut compared to the $59 million cut served up by the Senate. Similarly, the House provides $15 in new money for instructional equipment at the community colleges, while the Senate provides just $5 million. And while the House provides $1.9 million for job training in economically struggling areas, the Senate does not, instead opting to invest $1.5 million to put community college “coaches” in high schools with the goal of helping high school students transition into vocational training programs upon graduation.

Read more

Commentary

Labor Day petition seeks policies to support quality jobs

In case you missed it, the North Carolina Justice Center is calling on North Carolinians to celebrate Labor Day this year by adding their names to a petition that calls for policies that promote quality jobs. Here’s the specific language:

“We, the undersigned, call on Governor McCrory to support policies that create quality jobs that boost the economy in our communities. And given that many jobs no longer provide workers with all the necessary aspects of quality employment, the Governor must recognize the necessity of policies that provide workers with the supports they are no longer receiving through work.

Specifically, we urge Governor McCrory to support the following policies aimed at creating quality jobs capable of boosting our state’s economy:

  • Raise the minimum wage to allow workers to afford the basics, make ends meet and provide for their families.
  • Allow workers to earn paid sick days and paid family medical leave so they can recover from illness, welcome the birth or adoption of a new child or care for a sick family member.
  • Promote retirement security, including access to sufficient income to retire with dignity, by establishing universal access to private retirement accounts.
  • Provide access to affordable health insurance through the expansion of Medicaid.
  • Allow workers to collectively bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits.
  • Adequately fund the pathways for skill development and career mobility in our community college system.

Let’s build a North Carolina economy that works for everyone.”

For more information and to add your name, click here.