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The N.C. Budget and Tax Center reported recently that while North Carolinians are working harder than ever, most are not reaping the benefits economically. The report points to the “off-shoring” of jobs as a major contributor to soaring income inequality.

Yesterday, Senior Economist John Schmitt of the Center for Economic Policy Research reported similar findings on the national level; American workers are better and more productive than ever.

“The workforce today is more experienced, much better educated, and working with more –and better– capital. Largely as a result, GDP per capita was 63 percent higher in 2010 than it was in 1979.”

Schmitt’s report, however, points to parallel and closely related contributing cause for growing wage and income inequality: the decline in worker bargaining power. Read More

North Carolinians are working harder than ever before, but the economy doesn’t seem to be working for them. At least, that’s the verdict of a new Budget & Tax Center report, which finds that during the current economic recovery, North Carolina’s workers have increased their productivity and gotten paid less for the first time in 30 years, yet another sign that the current economic recovery is barely living up to its name.  In fact, this productivity gap—in which rising worker productivity is not rewarded with new job creation or higher wages—is one of the most troubling features of the current recovery.

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Today, on the three-year anniversary of the last increase in the federal minimum wage, a broad coalition of groups and activists across the country will call for a realistic raise for the lowest-income earners.

Currently, the federal minimum wage stands at a low $7.25, and North Carolina tracks this federal standard. The minimum wage used to be a much more realistic wage standard – after its creation in 1938, the value rose steadily until reaching a high point in 1968. Since that time, however, the minimum wage’s value has steadily eroded as Congress has failed to correct for inflation over time. If properly adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage would be $10.55 today.

While the minimum wage hasn’t increased in the last three years, the prices of basic goods certainly have. As NELP’s chart below illustrates, the price of tuition, food, gas and utilities have steadily climbed while the value of the minimum wage has not. $7.25 translates to roughly $15,000 per year for a full-time worker while a conservative measure of actual family costs for one adult and one child in North Carolina requires an income of more than twice this amount.

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A new study from the N.C. Budget and Tax Center confirms what a lot of worker advocates have been saying for some time: average North Carolina workers are working harder and more productively than ever but their their wages are stagnant or falling. Meanwhile, high end jobs continue to grow, thus contributing to a two-tier labor market in which mid-level wage employment is disappearing as the jobs are outsourced overseas.

Here are the key findings:

  • The economic recovery from the Great Recession is different from any recovery in the last 30 years, as seen in unprecedentedly sluggish job creation and, perhaps most obviously, falling wages.
  • A unique feature of the current sluggish recovery is the productivity gap, in which—for the first time in 30 years—rising worker productivity (a key driver of economic growth) is not being rewarded with higher wages.
  • This productivity gap has contributed to the emergence of a two-tier labor market, with growth in low-wage and high-wage occupations, but little growth in between. The result is the worst wage inequality seen in 30 years.

Read the entire report by clicking here.

 

A new report released Tuesday by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shows a mismatch between the cost of rental housing and the wages people earn day-to-day.

Out of Reach 2012 finds in North Carolina the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a decent, two-bedroom apartment is $709 a month. A person working the standard 40-hour work week would need to earn roughly an hourly wage of $13.63 to cover their rent and basic utilities.

Now if you make minimum wage ($7.25), you would need to have two full-time jobs or work roughly 75 hours each and every week to be able to afford that same modest apartment in the Tar Heel state.

Across the country, with more families opting to rent over home ownership, vacancy rates are down and rents are trending higher. NLIHC notes that is placing an even greater burden on extremely low-income households, including seniors and those on a fixed-income. And the problem has only gotten worse in recent years:

Despite the immense need, the supply of low-cost rental units is actually shrinking, as more units are converted to serve higher income tenants or fall into disrepair. According to recent ACS [Census] data, the number of units renting for $500 or less fell by one million from 2007 to 2010, and during that same time period, the number of units renting at $1,250 or more grew by two million units.

To read the full report, which includes a look at rental housing in all of NC’s 100 counties, click here.