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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.

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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