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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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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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NC Budget and Tax Center

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.

NC Budget and Tax Center

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!