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As we approach Labor Day weekend, new data from the state Division of Employment Security  shows unemployment rates fell in 97 of North Carolina’s 100 counties last month. However, most of the job growth this past year has occurred in Leisure & Hospitality, the lowest-wage sector.

This industry pays roughly $12 below the statewide average, according to analysis by the NC Budget & Tax Center.

MaryBe McMillan with the NC State AFL-CIO says it’s troubling that the employment opportunities that have replaced the manufacturing jobs lost during the recession fail to provide families a living wage:

“Folks cannot get by on $7.25 an hour, and it’s long overdue we raise the minimum wage, make it a living wage, index it to inflation so we are not going another decade or so without a wage increase,” explained McMillan in an interview with NC Policy Watch.

Minimum wage workers and their supporters will gather today (Thursday) in cities across the nation, including Raleigh, asking to be paid $15 an hour.

For a preview of McMillan’s radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below:

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The statewide unemployment rate is holding steady at 8.8 percent, despite a statewide loss of 11,000 jobs over the last month.

The June employment data was released today by the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis division.  It was the same as last month, and down from the 9.6 percent unemployment the state battled this time last year.

Today’s release of June data make the third month in a row the state has come in under 9 percent. Click here for more detailed data from the state commerce agency about the unemployment figures.

But it’s far from a rosy picture, with 10,958 less people employed this month over last month and an estimated 10,000 people no longer in the labor force (meaning those who are no longer actively looking for jobs).

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The Obama Administration’s federal labor department says the plan to overhaul North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system would kick 170,000 jobless off of benefits this summer, and have the state’s economy miss out on $780 million in federal funds.

Previous estimates put the number of those immediately affected at 80,000.

Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Seth Harris released a statement late Monday saying that the federal agency doesn’t have the power to stop the Rebublican-led N.C. General Assembly from moving forward with the plan, but cautioned that families stand to be hurt by it.

The N.C. Senate is ready to move this week on House Bill 4, which proposes to pay off debt the state took on during the height of the Recession by reducing the amount of unemployment benefits workers receive and raising the amount employers pay. Critics of the plan, including the N.C. Justice Center, say the reform unfairly puts the burden on the backs of workers, while businesses that enjoyed years of tax cuts that led to the crisis in the system will walk away bearing a fraction of the cost of righting the system.

Here’s the full text of Harris’ statement:

The North Carolina legislature is considering legislation that would reduce state Unemployment Insurance benefits. If enacted, the legislation also would cut off all federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation — that is, benefits after 26 weeks of unemployment — to 170,000 unemployed North Carolinians. This cutoff is automatic under federal law. I have no discretion to stop it. As a result, families struggling to secure their place in the middle class will suffer a grievous blow, and the state’s economy will lose $780 million in federal funds that are vital to reducing North Carolina’s high unemployment rate.

We know that for every dollar spent on Unemployment Insurance benefits, nearly two dollars are generated in the local economy. Unemployed workers and their families spend these benefits in local grocery stores and small businesses, and use them to stay current on mortgage or rent payments and utilities. For these reasons, UI programs are vital to economic growth in difficult times, particularly in states like North Carolina with high unemployment rates.

 

The N.C. Budget and Tax Center reported recently that while North Carolinians are working harder than ever, most are not reaping the benefits economically. The report points to the “off-shoring” of jobs as a major contributor to soaring income inequality.

Yesterday, Senior Economist John Schmitt of the Center for Economic Policy Research reported similar findings on the national level; American workers are better and more productive than ever.

“The workforce today is more experienced, much better educated, and working with more –and better– capital. Largely as a result, GDP per capita was 63 percent higher in 2010 than it was in 1979.”

Schmitt’s report, however, points to parallel and closely related contributing cause for growing wage and income inequality: the decline in worker bargaining power. Read More

It looks incremental, but it’s progress…

For Immediate Release
April 25, 2012

Contact: Justin Flores, FLOC Director of Programs Office: 919-731-4433; Cell: 704-577-3480

MAJOR TOBACCO COMPANIES AGREE TO MEET WITH FLOC TO DISCUSS FARMWORKERS’ RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION: Group Includes Reynolds American, Inc.

In a landmark breakthrough, several of the largest tobacco companies have agreed to designate a committee made up of representatives of tobacco manufacturers, tobacco growers, and farmworkers. FLOC will represent the workers, the North Carolina Grower’s Association will represent the growers and Altria will represent Altria/Philip Morris USA, Reynolds American and Philip Morris International.   The committee is charged with Read More