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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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This little, under-reported development in China is likely to have vastly greater impact on North Carolina’s unemployment rate than all of the conservative tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthy combined.

Economist-extraordinaire  Dean Baker explains:

China’s central bank announces job creation program for the United States Read More

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Sharon DeckerYou gotta’ hand it to state Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker for one thing: she continues to be the one McCrory administration official who will occasionally admit a problem and not directly blame the Perdue administration for its existence. She also frequently doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but at least she occasionally seems sincere.

This past summer, she  said that the controversial legislative session and the protests it spawned was making it tough to sell the state to potentially relocating businesses. Now, this week, as several news outlets have reported, she’s admitted that North Carolina’s “skills gap” is a problem when wooing businesses looking for highly-educated workers.

Funny, that sounds an awful lot like what progressives and McCrory administration critics have been saying all along — namely that the key to solving our economic problems lies not in slashing taxes but in investing in our kids and workersRead More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Folks interested in economic development policy should check out a new report released by the Budget and Tax Center today.  As discussed in the report, the state needs a fresh approach to creating jobs and growing the economy—an updated economic development strategy that fits the demands and challenges of the 21st century. At the heart of this new approach, the primary goal for the state’s economic development efforts should be achieving growth in median household income.

The fundamental challenge facing North Carolina’s economy in the first decades of the 21st century is how to replace rapidly vanishing jobs in declining manufacturing industries with jobs in growing industries that pay enough to allow workers and their families to make ends meet and achieve middle class prosperity.

To meet this challenge, the state should refocus its economic development goals to not just to promote “growth” for its own sake, but to ensure that as many people and regions as possible benefit from growth.  As a result, North Carolina should adopt an integrated, “all-of-the-above” approach to economic development, one that leverages the state’s existing assets and strategies—such as its top-notch research universities and regional clusters of thriving industries like pharmaceutical manufacturing—to support all types of business growth. This involves the expansion of existing businesses and the creation of new homegrown businesses, alongside strategies for attracting outside businesses to the state.

This involves fostering businesses in industry clusters that are not only expanding, but that also pay high wages and offer good benefits, and to target those efforts to the regions of the state that lagging behind.

Finally, a 21st century strategy requires 21st century ways of measuring whether that strategy is succeeding. As a result, policymakers need to use a broader range of indicators beyond economic growth— including median household income and poverty rates—that reflect changes in the standard of living and the ability of families to prosper in the 21st century.

For more details, see the report.

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A new release from the NC Justice Center:

A boom in low-wage jobs is the leading factor contributing to the drop in unemployment across most of the state’s metros, according to today’s jobs report from the N.C. Division of Employment Security.

Although unemployment has dropped in all 14 of North Carolina’s metro areas over the last year, most of these job growth has occurred in the lowest wage sector—Leisure & Hospitality. Unfortunately, this industry pays $8.30 an hour, more than $12 below the statewide average—suggesting that most metros are seeing the biggest growth opportunities in ultra-low wage jobs.

Over the last year, Leisure & Hospitality was either the fastest or second fastest growing industry in 10 metro areas. These metros include: