MEDIA RELEASE: State of Working North Carolina report finds families lost financial ground, opportunities during 2000s

Budget & Tax Center’s annual examination of labor market conditions kicks off week of data and analysis critical to understand NC’s economic situation
 
RALEIGH (September 2, 2012) – Workers are instrumental to North Carolina’s economy as both producers and consumers of goods and services. Yet in advance of Labor Day, a new report finds that working families lost significant financial ground and opportunities throughout the 2000s as a result of North Carolina’s economic conditions prior to the Great Recession, the severity of the recession’s impact on the state, and policymakers’ decisions to cut state investments in the tools that could rebuild the economy, such as an educated workforce, sound infrastructure and healthy communities.
 
A dramatic increase in income inequality and the decline of the manufacturing industry also played key roles in well-being of North Carolina’s working families, according to the Budget and Tax Center’s annual “State of Working North Carolina” report, which lays out the broad trends of North Carolina’s economic landscape since 2000, analyzes the state’s slow recovery, and examines key policy priorities that our state leaders can adopt in order to set North Carolina on a better path in the future.
 
The report finds that the outlook for workers worsened during the Great Recession and its aftermath, with a lack of unemployment opportunities further increasing economic hardship. North Carolina ranked 6th in the nation for most jobs lost since the start of the Great Recession, the report said, and the unemployment rate is still nearly twice pre-recession levels. In addition, North Carolina has the 12th highest poverty rate and 12th lowest median household income in the U.S.
 
Given the significant jobs deficit, North Carolina policymakers should focus on creating jobs in the immediate term as well as creating the long-term conditions that facilitate the expansion of employment opportunities, the report said. Creating and maintaining jobs that pay a living wage and provide supports that ensure job stability – such as increasing the minimum wage and expanding access to paid leave – will help promote shared economic prosperity and fuel economic growth for the state. In addition, North Carolina’s leaders must strengthen the state’s unemployment insurance system and support unemployed workers in their job search and retraining.
 
Wise public policies and sound investments that support workers will strengthen North Carolina’s economic recovery. During the last century, public investments played a critical role in promoting broadly shared prosperity, raising the incomes of all workers across the economic spectrum, and ensuring that an increasing number of Americans could join the middle class and share in the nation’s unprecedented economic growth, the report said.
 
"In the face of our current economic challenges, North Carolina and the nation need policymakers to recommit to these historic promises, to promote public investments that support workers, and in so doing, to support economic growth that benefits all,” said Alexandra Sirota, Director of the Budget and Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.
 
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Alexandra Forter Sirota, Budget & Tax Center Director, alexandra@ncjustice.org, 919.861.1468; Jeff Shaw, director of communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (mobile).
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