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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:

NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.7 percent in August, according to the latest jobs report from the Division of Employment Security, but this “improvement” is largely the result of a mathematical quirk, and masks deeper, long-term problems in the state’s labor market—most notably, the lack of available jobs for unemployed workers.

While the number of unemployed people dropped last month, this is only because jobless workers gave up on their job search and dropped out of the labor force, not because they actually found jobs. In August, Read More

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Trickledown economic theory and the three years of state budget and tax cuts to which it has given rise continues to work wonders for the North Carolina economy…not.

This just in from the state Department of Commerce:

“RALEIGH — The state’s seasonally adjusted July unemployment rate was 8.9 percent, increasing 0.1 of a percentage point from June’s revised rate. The national rate declined to 7.4 percent from June’s 7.6 percent.”

Of course, in fairness, the notion that state policies can have any kind of significant near-term impact on the overall employment rate is as misplaced now as it was when conservatives were lambasting the Perdue administration. Save for the actual jobs it creates through public employment, the main impact state leaders can have is on: a) the long-term picture (where investments in education and infrastructure are key) and b) easing the suffering of the jobless and their families.

That said, the performance of conservative state leaders in both of these latter two areas has been truly abysmal so prospects seem likely to remain relatively dim for the foreseeable future.