State of Working North Carolina: Labor Force Demographics
North Carolina’s labor market is becoming more diverse, more balanced along gender lines, and more educated. These trends have the potential to improve the competitiveness of the state globally as it draws upon the experiences and perspectives of workers.
But it will also be important that North Carolina pay particular attention to the impact of broader economic trends on specific workers.
For example, unemployment has not affected all groups in the state the same. African-Americans have an unemployment rate more than twice that of whites and nearly 1.5 times as high as the level for Latinos. Driving this disproportionate experience of unemployment is the concentration of workers of color in industries impacted by the Great Recession and in public-sector jobs, which have been cut significantly during the recovery. In addition, communities of color are concentrated in geographic areas with low job opportunities and changing regional industries.
Moreover, trends in the women’s wages post-2000 suggest a disturbing trend. Women’s median wages actually increased from 1979 to 2000, slightly narrowing the gender wage gap, but women's progress has stalled since the end of the recession. The challenge is to ensure that women’s wages grow not at the expense of men’s but at a faster pace to close this wage gap. The best way to do that is through policy.
Finally, communities across the state have not been impacted equally by the Great Recession and economic trends. In fact, many communities in eastern and western North Carolina, as well as rural communities throughout the state, have been hardest hit.
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