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According to the latest issue of Prosperity Watch, North Carolina’s job growth has remained stubbornly stagnant over the last year, with the unemployment rate stuck between 9.6 and 9.4 since February 2012. Even more troubling, however, is the fact that what little employment growth the state has experienced since the end of the recession has largely occurred in low-wage service industries. In effect, the state is losing the middle-wage jobs that used to provide a pathway into the middle class for many North Carolinians and replacing them with jobs in industries that pay significantly below the state average—a boom in low-wage employment.  See the latest issue of Prosperity Watch for details.

The big news on the jobs front the past couple days has been the announcement by Governor Pat McCrory that insurance giant MetLife has agreed to make a new $126 million investment in two North Carolina locations, resulting in the creation of 2,600 jobs.

While the news of any job creation is good news when the state’s unemployment rate is over 9 percent, the price tag attached to these jobs is causing a bit of sticker shock. The deal involves providing $87 million in Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) incentives to MetLife over the next 12 years—the largest discretionary incentive package North Carolina has ever offered from this program.

Given North Carolina’s tight state budget and persistently high unemployment, the public needs to know as much as possible about the real costs and benefits of the deal—and whether it’s really worth $87 million in taxpayer dollars, or about $33,000 per job.

To that end, here are three questions about the MetLife deal that need answers:

Question #1—How many jobs will go to North Carolina residents? While MetLife has promised to create 2,600 jobs, how many of these employment opportunities will be open to people already living in North Carolina, and how many will be filled by moving the company’s current employees from other locations in California and New England? At a cost of $33,000 per job, it’s hard to understand the justification behind simply providing taxpayer subsidies to cover the relocation expenses of out-of-state residents, unless the overwhelming majority of these new jobs can be filled with North Carolina residents.

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Raleigh will play host to a pair of competing and very different luncheons dealing with public policy this Thursday.

We at NC Policy Watch will be hosting a Crucial Conversation with Kim Bobo, the founder and director of the national advocacy organization, Interfaith Worker Justice. Kim has been named one of Utne Reader‘s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” and helped coin the phrase “wage theft” for employer practices that are robbing earned income from millions of Americans. Her book Wage Theft in America helped place the issue on the national radar.Click here for more information.

 Meanwhile, over at the Pope Civitas Institute, folks on the right will be hearing from the boss, himself, Art Pope. Pope has, to our knowledge, never been named anything by Utne Reader, written a book or been called a “visionary” by anyone with any horse sense, but he is clearly well along in a decades-old campaign to enhance the incomes of the state’s top 1%.

We hope you’ll show your support for alternative voices to Pope and the politicians and groups he funds by registering for and attending the Crucial Conversation. Hope to see you there!

 

Don’t miss our upcoming Crucial Conversation lunches on two important aspects of the 2012 economy…

Event # 1 – Business incentives: Where they work and where they don’t

Join us as Prof. Bill Lester of the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC Chapel Hill unveils an important new study entitled “Mediating Incentives.” According to Lester, there are circumstances in which incentives can work – if we’re smart about where, when and how we pursue them.

When: Thursday September 20 – Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m. and the program will start at 12:00 noon

Click here to register for this event and get more information.

Event # 2 - A talk by Kim Bobo, Founder and Director of the national advocacy organization, Interfaith Worker Justice: How wage theft is undermining the rights of working people Read More

With unemployment in North Carolina at 9.6%, policy makers are rightfully focused on ensuring that the state’s economy creates more jobs for Tarheel workers. But as this week’s Prosperity Watch demonstrates, the state also needs to focus on creating better jobs, as well, jobs that pay decent wages and allow workers to support their families. Creating these good jobs would reverse the troubling reality of low-wage job creation seen during the 2000s.  As the new issue points out, North Carolina’s economy lost hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs from 2001 to 2011, and in their place, saw a boom in low-wage employment instead. What caused this shift from high-wage to low-wage work? For more details, see this week’s Prosperity Watch.