Labor day – a holiday created by the labor movement and dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers – provided little reason for North Carolina workers to celebrate this year. The State of Working North Carolina, an annual report assessing how workers in the state are faring, shows what many North Carolina workers already know: unemployment continues to plague the state and many workers – despite working full time – are just not getting by.
Nearly 1 in 4 workers in the state are in occupations that pay less than $22,811 – the 2011 poverty threshold for a family of four. Roughly half a million workers in North Carolina are supporting themselves, and often their families, on the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
The minimum wage has received some long-overdue attention as of late with increasing attention to growing income inequality and national proposals based on the premise that those who work full time should not be living in poverty. Pre-labor day protests all across the country, and in North Carolina, highlighted the extreme disparity between workers struggling to make ends meet with soaring corporate profits in one of the few industries growing in the state. Read more
The State of Working North Carolina was released this week, and the numbers reemphasize that North Carolina’s working families have experienced declines in financial stability and economic opportunity over the last decade. One take away from this grim story is that North Carolina needs not only jobs, but good jobs. As a recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research highlights, however, good jobs are in short supply.
Good jobs pay a living wage. Read more
Significant job loss during the Great Recession has resulted in persistently high unemployment rates and long-term unemployment in communities across the state. Some regions of the state, like former manufacturing towns and rural communities, have been particularly hard hit because the recent job loss compounds the economic transformation that has only made worse the ongoing loss of jobs. Unemployment, and particularly long-term unemployment, has been associated with a host of negative financial, family and health problems.
The worst possible outcome of long-term and high unemployment is the potential for people to become “discouraged”—to drop out of the labor market completely due to frustration with the lack of job opportunities. National studies have found that this is happening across the country. North Carolina’s labor force participation declined by almost 2 percent since the formal end of the Great Recession in June 2009. Read more
The newly released State of Working North Carolina Chartbook reveals how several economic trends over the 2000s resulted in diminished opportunities for the state’s workers. Although the Chartbook does not review how workers are faring at the neighborhood level due to data limitations, it has been well-documented by the Budget and Tax Center that too many North Carolinians are concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods where good education and job opportunities are severely limited. North Carolina needs policies that will strengthen the opportunity structure—especially in disadvantaged areas—in order to build a more inclusive economy that will support workers and the recovery.
As evidenced by high poverty rates and other economic indicators like joblessness and business vacancy rates, some neighborhoods are hurting more than others and the need to rebuild is clear. Disparities in economic opportunity at the neighborhood level have persisted during the decades-long transformation in the state’s economy and have grown since the Great Recession. Some neighborhoods’ economic hardships have been shaped by the isolation from good jobs and expanding industries, commercial disinvestment, and inequitable outcomes rooted in government policies. Although the underlying causes of disadvantage may vary from community to community, the negative effects of living in an opportunity-deprived area are largely uniform, wide-ranging, and destructive. Read more
As shown in the recent report on the State of Working North Carolina, many families and workers across the state lost ground during the 2000s. During this “lost decade,” workers experienced stagnant or falling wage growth, anemic job growth in the recovery from the 2001 recession, and the catastrophic job losses of the Great Recession of 2007-2009. And in the three years since the formal end of the Great Recession, North Carolina has struggled to make up this lost ground—unemployment remains persistently high, with at least three workers for every available job opening.
In the face of this challenge, policy makers need to promote solutions that address the immediate crisis in employment and establish long-term path for building a sustainable employment base for the industries of the future.