The best op-ed of the weekend: NC’s disastrous lab experiment gone awry

unemploymentIn case you missed it, there was a great op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer over the weekend by Kevin Rogers of the group Action NC. In it Rogers explores the disastrous folly of North Carolina’s three-year-old experiment with a decimated unemployment insurance system.

After documenting some of the destruction the changes have inflicted on the state’s workers and its workforce, Rogers put it this way:

“This is all to say that the drastic and draconian unemployment insurance cuts North Carolina made in 2013 were a complete failure. The share of people with jobs in North Carolina did not grow nearly as quickly as it did in states that did not make these cuts, and there was no discernible increase in the share of the population with a job. Instead, tens of thousands of job seekers were forced into part-time jobs, forced into underemployment or fell out of the job market completely. In all cases, these people would not show up in the official unemployment numbers but are certainly still unemployed by any sensible measure.

Moreover, the most vulnerable of our population fared even worse than the average. While the official unemployment rate for whites in the state was 4.1 percent in the second quarter of 2015, the unemployment rate for blacks and Hispanics was 9.3 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively. That means the cuts to unemployment benefits hit minority households more than twice as hard as white households.

But the story doesn’t end there. Women, who already face across-the-board wage disparity, also face an unemployment disparity. While it is true that women have regained a large number of the jobs they lost during the Great Recession, their gains are highly concentrated in low-wage occupations. Sixty percent of the increase in employment for women between 2009 and 2012 was in the 10 largest occupations that typically pay less than $10.10 per hour. In contrast, these 10 low-wage occupations accounted for only 20 percent of men’s employment growth over the same period.

If the states are truly laboratories of democracy, then North Carolina is surely the domain of mad scientists. When the goal of a policy is to get more people employed quickly, and the result is more people without jobs, it matters little with what catchy term the results are branded. For those still unemployed and without assistance, it’s easy to see where the experiment has failed.

The mad scientists in the General Assembly still have time to fix their creation before it becomes full-fledged Frankenpolicy. They should.”

You can read Rogers’ entire essay by clicking here.

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