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The fiscal policy wonks at the Budget and Tax Center are out with a new and detailed analysis of the impact of last year’s harshest-in-the-nation cuts to unemployment insurance that were imposed by Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly. The findings? They ain’t pretty:

“Cuts to unemployment insurance in North Carolina have made it harder for jobless families to make ends meet and get back on their feet in an economy that is still providing too few jobs to go around. Contrary to what proponents of the cuts claim, a recent decline in unemployment in North Carolina is largely driven by people leaving the workforce because they cannot find jobs, not due to employment growth. And far from helping the state’s economy, the cuts have left thousands of North Carolinians with less money to spend on food, clothing and other necessities, which also harms local businesses.

Specifically:

• The average weekly benefit for unemployed North Carolinians plunged Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

It’s the myth that will not die.

In the ongoing debate over the impact of last year’s draconian cuts to unemployment benefits, we keep hearing the story that reducing benefits for the jobless has helped reduce the unemployment rate.

If only this were true.

While the unemployment rate has undoubtedly fallen, this is because unemployed workers have simply fallen out of the labor force, rather than moving into employment—a trend the unemployment rate simply doesn’t take into account. Just this point was made yesterday in a New York Times piece by Annie Lowrey profiling North Carolina’s economy, which noted that for every unemployed person who moved into employment, another two unemployed people gave up looking for work and dropped out of the labor force altogether.

In fact, the state’s labor force contracted more than 2.5 percent in 2013 at the same time that the state’s population grew by almost 1 percent.  And anytime the labor force shrinks while the population grows, the economy is moving in the wrong direction.

If the Times piece gets it right about the connection between unemployment benefit cuts and the shrinking labor force, it is a bit too trusting of Governor McCrory’s claims that his plan helped boost job creation in the state.

Perhaps Ms. Lowrey should have noted Ned Barnett’s important point from last week—by any measure, employment growth in 2013 was the weakest of any year since the end of the recession. North Carolina created just 37,700 jobs from January to November last year, almost half the 66,000 jobs created over the same period in 2012 and still short of the jobs created in 2011 and 2010. At the rate of employment growth achieved in 2013, it will take another 13 years for the state to create enough jobs to replace all those lost during the recession and keep up with population growth.

If Governor McCrory was correct that cutting unemployment benefits forced unemployed workers to find work, then we would expect to see unemployed workers moving into employment. But we don’t—we actually see the opposite.  There were actually 9,000 fewer people employed in November than in January—again, the worst performance since 2010. This means that unemployed people aren’t moving into jobs, they’re just dropping out of the labor force altogether.

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Members of Congress head to their home districts for a 10-day work period having failed this week to pass an extension of federal unemployment benefits.

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, says it is critical that members of the  House and Senate address this crisis. Owens says the recent decline in the unemployment rate is largely the result of workers dropping out of the labor force.

NELP notes the average duration of unemployment exceeds 37 weeks, and that 38 percent of those who are jobless have been out of work for six months or more.

Owens appears this weekend on NC Policy Watch’s radio show News and Views. For a preview of her interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below.

Congress returns  to work January 27th.

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mccrory1106More confirmation today that Gov. Pat McCroy’s contempt for people in need (and the facts) literally knows no bounds. Check out this excerpt from Mark Binker’s story at WRAL.com about unemployment insurance and some new and utterly ridiculous statements  from the Guv:

“‘We had the ninth-most-generous unemployment compensation in the country,’ McCrory said. ‘We were having a lot of people move here, frankly, from other areas to get unemployment … People were moving here because of our very generous benefits, and then, of course, we had more debt. I personally think that more people got off unemployment and either got jobs or moved back to where they came from.’”

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at someone who is that pathetically misinformed — a) people who become unemployed elsewhere and then move here aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits and b) even if they were somehow eligible,  the average benefit was something like $290 a week prior to McCrory’s cuts!

 

NC Budget and Tax Center

In remarks at Monday’s economic forecast forum, a number of speakers sought to take credit for enacting policies in 2013 that they believe have contributed to big drops in the unemployment rate since last January, an idea that has been repeated in recent business news reports. Unfortunately, as much as we all want to make progress reducing North Carolina’s persistent joblessness, we’re still waiting for a jobs recovery to actually happen.

The unfortunate reality is that the unemployment rate may have fallen due to mathematical quirk in how it’s calculated, but unemployment itself still remains high due to anemic job creation and a contracting labor force.

Perhaps the most problematic claim involves the mistaken notion that the General Assembly’s deep cuts to unemployment benefits that took effect in June somehow spurred an impressive reduction in unemployment in the following months. According to this view, the “employment effect” associated with cutting unemployment benefits forces workers to find jobs that they otherwise would not have accepted because the wages of those new jobs pay less than what their old jobs paid. And since the unemployment rate has gone down, proponents of these cuts have argued that the employment effect must have worked in just this way.

There is a serious problem with this idea—it assumes that unemployed workers who lost their benefits in June went out and found jobs in August through November, a claim that just doesn’t bear up under serious scrutiny.

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