Prosperity Watch

Issue 51, No. 1: Immigrant integration as an economic boost
Naturalization ceremonies for immigrants will be held in communities across North Carolina this Independence Day.  For many immigrant parents in North Carolina, a pathway to temporary legal status continues to be blocked despite the President’s Executive Action on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). The full implementation of DAPA, which was announced in November 2014, has been on hold until various legal challenges are resolved. More...
Issue 50, No. 4: Child care subsidies are crucial to well-being of low income families
A report released this month by NC Child details the impact made by child care subsidy policy changes passed by North Carolina lawmakers last year. Child care subsidies provide low income families financial assistance to help pay for the high cost of child care while parents are working. Overall, 36 of the 38 states saw growth in personal income tax collections, with only Kansas and Illinois seeing a decline. North Carolina joined 25 other states in reporting double-digit growth in year over year personal income tax collections. More...
Issue 50, No. 3: Improving National Economy, Stock Market Surge Boosted Revenue Collections, not Tax Cuts
An improving national economy along with a surge in the stock market largely explains the news by state officials that personal income tax collections are coming in higher than projected in North Carolina. The better-than-expected revenue collections in North Carolina are not the result of tax cuts passed in recent years. Whereas these tax cuts reduce the availability of dollars for public schools, courts and public health, research shows that over time, the revenue loss from tax cuts is unlikely to be made up. More...
Issue 50, No. 2: North Carolina Communities Benefiting from Immigration
Immigrants are increasingly important to North Carolina’s long-term economic vitality. The smokescreen of rhetoric surrounding immigration can obscure facts on the ground, but that makes it all the more important to take a sober look at the actual evidence. As documented in a recent Budget & Tax Center report, immigrants bring needed skills and expertise, swell the ranks of Main Street entrepreneurs, help to reverse population decline in many rural parts of the state, and ultimately improve our communities. More...
Issue 50, No. 1: New data highlights economic challenges, opportunities in all 100 NC counties
The Budget & Tax Center released a new data tool that provides key indicators of socio-economic well-being in all 100 counties which can be accessed here with two-page snapshots for each county here. One key finding from a review of these indicators is that tremendous variation exists across North Carolina in terms of opportunity and outcomes for residents. Depending on where one lives in the state, one could expect to live longer, have more employment opportunities, improved access to health care providers and more affordable housing. More...
Issue 49, No. 3: Immigration to rural communities a source of workers, neighbors and entrepreneurs
There is much talk about the challenges facing rural North Carolina, including declining industry and population, and elevated economic hardship. However, the positive role that immigrants are playing in rural communities across North Carolina is a key asset and opportunity that is often overlooked. As workers, neighbors and entrepreneurs, North Carolina’s immigrants are revitalizing main streets, supporting a vibrant civic life and working at many of the critical jobs that help people through their day. More...
Issue 49, No. 2:  Neighborhoods Matter to the Lifetime Earnings Of NC Children
New research from the Equality of Opportunity Project out of Harvard University provides compelling evidence that where children grow up can have long-lasting impacts on their economic prospects. The research uses big data to investigate not just that variation in economic mobility exists across neighborhoods but that places themselves can determine children’s economic outcomes as adults. Every year a child spends in a better neighborhood matters for their earnings and the younger a child moves to a better place matters for their college attainment, family stability as well as earnings... More...
Issue 49, No. 1:  Working Family Tax Credits Help 763,000 North Carolina Moms
Working moms in North Carolina face significant financial challenges in supporting their children’s healthy development and their family’s economic stability.  They earn, on average, less than men and often serve as the sole breadwinner, struggling to balance the costs of high quality child care and after school programs, transportation to and from school and work, and basic necessities like food and housing. Public policies that help working moms make ends meet on low-wages make a difference not just in women’s work life but in the lifelong economic outcomes of children and the future of the state. More...
Issue 48, No. 4: Racial Disparities Rooted in History, Hold Back NC's Economy
From the mountains to the coast, poverty-level incomes are a harsh reality for more than 1.7 million North Carolinians who find affording the basics such as rent, food, and utilities to be a daily challenge. The depth of economic hardship in the state is closely tied to race—it always has been in North Carolina where the state’s economy was built on free labor through slavery and sharecropping followed by decades of low-cost labor and policies rooted in discrimination. The legacy and ongoing pattern of economic exclusion keeps us from achieving a better future. More...
Issue 48, No. 3:  Boosting the economy through equity in pay
Wages have rightly been front and center in the discussion of North Carolina’s economic recovery that officially began in 2009 but failed to deliver improved well-being to all in the state. Women, in particular, continue to face ongoing barriers to both an economic recovery as well as equal pay in the workplace. The slight closing of the earnings differential between men and women that occurred in the recovery period has perversely been driven by wage declines that have been greater for men than women. More...
Issue 48, No. 2: Wages in NC counties fall short of supporting working families
Wages in North Carolina have failed to keep up with rising costs for a family's most basic needs such as food on the table, a roof over their heads, and gas in the car. The resulting challenge to make ends meet for working families creates broader costs for the state including the potential for slower growth resulting from inequality. It also reflects a failure to fulfill the promise of an economy that works for everyone. More...
Issue 48, No. 1: NC should not look to its neighbors for how to build a strong economy
North Carolina's economy isn’t working for everyone, and for some it’s downright broken. According to a Budget & Tax Center report released last week, many families wake up to financial insecurity every morning as the shortage of jobs paying family-supporting wages persists, household income idles in neutral, and the gap between the wealthy and everyone else widens. Strangely, some policymakers are actually looking for policy ideas in neighboring states with worse track records on addressing poverty. More...

 

Issue 47, No. 3: Proximity to employment in North Carolina's metro areas
The discussion of urban versus rural economic growth in North Carolina often overlooks a vitally important nuance: people in many urban neighborhoods are commuting farther to work than in 2000. Even more distressingly, a recent report from the Brookings Institution shows that residents of impoverished neighborhoods are particularly likely to have seen their jobs recede into the distance. The results of this analysis underscore the importance of targeting economic policy and infrastructure investments to address the growing gulf between where people live and where they work. More...
Issue 47, No. 2: Working families losing ground as quality jobs vanish from NC's economy
Six years after the end of the Great Recession, jobs are finally becoming more plentiful in North Carolina, but there still aren’t enough jobs for everyone who wants to work. Worse yet, the overwhelming majority of those jobs don’t pay enough to make ends meet, provide necessary benefits to help families get by, or create sustainable pathways into middle-class prosperity. In short, North Carolina is not creating enough quality jobs. More...
Issue 47, No. 1: How low can North Carolina go?
Cuts to unemployment benefits in North Carolina have made it harder for jobless workers to get back on their feet in an economy that is still providing too few jobs for those who want to work.  More...

Issue 46, No. 4: A new (old) direction in state budgeting needed

State policymakers will set forward their budget proposals for the next two years in the coming weeks.  North Carolina’s ability to stage a real comeback will depend on the decisions they make. Unfortunately, North Carolina continues to invest far below historic averages making it more difficult for our schools, health care, courts and environmental protections to line up with a modern economy.  More...
Issue 46, No. 3: Revenue growth is not the same thing as a surplus
Revenue raised from North Carolina’s tax system is not growing at the pace it has in the past nor at a level sufficient to ensure that the state can invest in public schools, public health and modern infrastructure—the building blocks of a strong economy.  Contrary to claims that policymakers in North Carolina are making, the state is not experiencing a revenue surplus. Instead, revenue has been coming in below budgeted levels, generating  shortfalls for the previous fiscal year as well as the current one. More...
Issue 46, No. 2: Wage growth has not happened in North Carolina
A strong recovery should mean bigger paychecks. And yet, wage growth has been decidedly lackluster in the last several years, a sure sign that North Carolina’s comeback is far from complete.  Despite corporate profits being at an all-time high and productivity increasing, the recovery has not translated into improved earnings for the average worker. More...
Issue 46, No.1: The U.S. has come back faster than North Carolina
For the first time in a generation, North Carolina employment growth has not kept up with the nation since the start of the last recession. Having just passed the seven year mark from the start of the Great Recession, this is a good time to think about how North Carolina’s performance has fared compared to the nation, and compared to other recoveries in recent memory. More...
Issue 45, No. 4: An Exceptionally Unequal Recovery
A new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that the Great Recession was over a while ago for the top 1% of income earners in North Carolina. Since the official recovery began in 2009, incomes at the very top have been growing, but for everyone else in North Carolina incomes have actually declined. Strikingly in North Carolina as in just 15 additional states across the country, all of the income growth from 2009 to 2012 was captured by those in the top 1 percent or those with incomes in North Carolina greater than roughly $311,000. More...
Issue 45, No. 3: NC's upside-down tax system asks the most from those with the least
Low- and middle-income North Carolinians pay a larger share of their income in state and local taxes compared to wealthy taxpayers, according to a new report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). The lowest 20 percent of North Carolinians – with an average income of $10,700 – pay 9.2 percent of their income in taxes compared to 5.3 percent for the top 1 percent of income earners in the state. More...
Issue 45, No. 2: Poverty Data Suggests NC Is Facing another Lost Decade
Poverty reduction is idling in neutral for North Carolina and most of its 100 counties. The year 2013 marked the sixth straight year where no gains in poverty reduction were accomplished in North Carolina, on average. This means that another lost decade may be on the horizon in the Old North State where the weak economic recovery continues to bypass many local economies as workers face too few jobs and a boom in low-wage work. More...
Issue 45, No. 1: 2014 in Charts - A Review of Economic Conditions & Policy Choices
Five years into the official economic recovery, there were signs of a strengthening recovery in North Carolina albeit uneven and insufficient to deliver improved economic well-being broadly. The result is far too many North Carolinians remain without jobs or working for low-wages. Poverty levels have remained high and inequality has grown, both contributing to a less sustainable economy in the long-term. Here are 12 charts that tell the story of North Carolina's economy in 2014.
Issue 44, No. 3: Recovery comes to cities, bypasses most of rural North Carolina
National and statewide employment data in the last few months contain signs of a strengthening economy. Employment gains have been strong for several months running, reversing the severe job losses from the Great Recession. However, data for local communities show that a serious and growing divide is being created in North Carolina. While the metro areas have largely made up for jobs lost during the Great Recession, many rural parts of the state have not recovered to pre-recession levels of employment. More...
Issue 44, No. 2: Counties in NC with dual burden of high poverty, high inequality grows
Since 2000, North Carolina has experienced measurable growth in inequality, a decline in the earnings of the median worker and persistently high poverty. While inequality has continued to climb, it is notable that earnings and poverty have been slow to improve even as the economy has recovered.  New analysis by the Population Reference Bureau demonstrates an important spatial component to these measures of economic well-being and the need to focus on areas where multiple challenges are creating barriers to opportunity for all residents. More...
Issue 44, No. 1: Number of NC's jobless workers not covered by unemployment benefits grows three times faster than national average
More and more jobless North Carolinians are not able to access unemployment benefits that help them make ends meet at time when a troubled economy just isn’t creating enough jobs for those who want them. Policy changes enacted in 2013 dramatically cut the amount of time workers are eligible to receive benefits and made various changes to eligibility criteria, payment formulas and administration of the program. Since those changes have taken effect the number of jobless workers not covered by the state’s unemployment insurance system grew twice as fast as the rest of the South and more than three times as fast as the national average. More...
Issue 43, No. 3: North Carolinians Struggle with Food Deprivation
As Thanksgiving approaches, it is important to remember the 1 in 5 North Carolinian households who face food insecurity and struggle to put wholesome meals on the table for their loved ones. Due to a lack of resources, on any given day these families face difficult tradeoffs between food and other essential needs such as child care, rent, and utilities. High rates of food hardship and economic insecurity persist due to an economic recovery that is marked by too few jobs, a boom in low-wage work, and income growth that is bypassing the average family and going to the top earners. More...
Issue 43, No. 2: Voters approve minimum wage increases in response to its eroding value
Last week, voters in four states and one municipality approved minimum wage increases bringing the total number of states that will see minimum wage levels higher than the federal level of $7.25 rise to 29 states. It turns out voters are in tune with a clear data trend: erosion in the value of the minimum wage. This erosion means that it is more difficult for workers to maintain their purchasing power in an economy where the distribution of wages has kept the median wage low and the distance between the top and bottom great. More...
Issue 43, No. 1: NC must continue above average performance in race to recovery for all groups
The improvement in the state’s unemployment rate may appear to signal a strong economic recovery but several factors point to the problems inherent in that assessment.  The drop in the unemployment rate can occur when the labor force shrinks, a trend that demonstrates a lack of an adequate level of jobs available and frustration for jobless workers. North Carolina’s unemployment rate, despite declining, still remains 1.7 percentage points above where it was in December 2007. More...
Issue 42, No. 4: Barriers to post-secondary enrollment higher for some
Job training and workforce development are critical for preparing North Carolina’s workers for the industries of the future and for ensuring upward mobility in family incomes. In today’s high-skill economy, a high school diploma just isn’t sufficient to meet these challenges. As a result, some kind of post-secondary education is essential for unlocking pathways out of a low-wage future and into middle class prosperity. Unfortunately, barriers to post-secondary enrollment in North Carolina persist for communities of color. More...
Issue 42, No. 3: Unemployment for Young People Generates Costs for Us All
The lack of jobs and growth of low-wage work has left many in North Carolina struggling to find a foothold in the labor market. Millennials, those aged 18 to 34 years old, have faced a particularly steep climb to greater economic security in this context. It turns out that their experiences of entering the workforce during a downturn will hold back their earnings over their lifetime relative to those who started to work in better times. More...
Issue 42, No. 2: Employment Levels Remain Depressed in North Carolina
The proportion of North Carolinians who are employed—known as the employment-to-population ratio—remains below pre-recession levels and at a level not seen since before 1979. While the state’s unemployment rate has fallen over the last year this low level of employment relative to the working-age population signals an economy that is failing to deliver jobs to all who want to work. 
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Issue 42, No. 1: State budget underfunds in expansionary period, undermines economy
Investment in core public services – such as educating children, building a modern infrastructure and catalyzing research and development – supports economic opportunity and a strong economy. States must balance their budgets each year, and in turn, during downturns states often reduce spending levels and subsequently reinvest during expansions. Aligning spending with business cycles makes sense within the immediate fiscal constraints of declining revenue; however, fiscal decisions also play a role. More...
Issue 41, No. 4: Recent recoveries fail to bring down poverty rates
A disturbing trend that has been documented at the national level is also occurring in North Carolina:  economic recoveries have taken increasingly longer to bring down poverty rates.  Up until the 1970s poverty rates had moved in sync with indicators of economic growth, that is as the economy grew, poverty declined.  However, a disturbing trend post-1970s has been the breaking apart of the connection between an improving economy and a decline in the proportion of people experiencing economic hardship. More...
Issue 41, No. 3: New Americans and North Carolina's Economy
Immigrants are workers, consumers, and business owners in North Carolina’s economy and their economic contributions outpace what would be expected given their share of the population. As of 2011, North Carolina’s foreign-born population represented 7.3 percent of the overall population while their economic output through wages, salaries and business incomes represented $11 billion or 8.1 percent of the state’s total economic output. More...
Issue 41, No. 2: Young North Carolinians enter a challenging labor market
In order for North Carolina to be economically competitive in the future, young people gaining additional skills through education and work experience has become increasingly important given the changing nature of work opportunities. For many young people, entering the labor market during a recession has profoundly hampered their ability to find work, particularly jobs that provide the potential for advancement and higher earnings over time.  More...
Issue 41, No. 1: Labor force resiliency in the face of high unemployment
The Labor Day release of the State of Working North Carolina report highlighted the critical role that a diverse workforce will play in North Carolina’s current and future competitiveness and in expanding economic well-being.  As the state’s working-age population becomes more diverse, there is a great potential  for the development of innovative work processes and products as well as stronger links to global marketplaces. More...
Issue 40, No. 4: Back to School - Returning to an Economic Growth Model that Works
As North Carolina’s young people head back to school this week, it is their increased educational attainment that has the greatest potential to not only generate improved lifetime earnings and provide some protection against the worst employment outcomes but also strengthen the state’s economic recovery. States with higher educational attainment not only have higher productivity but higher median wages. The increases in production of goods and services benefit the median worker in these states. More...
Issue 40, No. 3: NC Tops List for Metro Areas with Largest Growth in Concentrations of Poverty
Recent research released by the Brookings Institution points to a trend across the country: the growing concentration of poverty in high-poverty, economically distressed neighborhoods just as the number of poor people grew over the 2000s.  The result is a double burden where the disadvantage of being poor is magnified by residing in a poor neighborhood, deepening hardship and creating greater barriers for movement out of poverty. More...
Issue 40, No. 2: Number of Jobless Workers Continue to Outpace Job Openings
The primary challenge in North Carolina’s labor market is the persistent lack of jobs.  Despite claims that North Carolina is creating jobs and is on the comeback, the challenge remains that there are still too few jobs available for a growing working age population. In June, the monthly jobs report for North Carolina shows that the state not only faces a significant job deficit, the state still has not reached pre-recession job numbers.  The state still needs 48,000 jobs to just get back to the 4.2 million jobs that were in the state in December 2007. More...
 
Issue 40, No. 1: Universal school meal programs ensure children are fed, ready to learn
More than 1.5 million students will enter public K-12 classrooms around North Carolina for the upcoming 2014-15 school year. Around 56 percent of these students are from families with incomes low enough to qualify for free and reduced lunch (up from 48 percent in 2008). Ensuring that children show up in classrooms each day fed and ready to learn play an important role in ensuring that all North Carolina students are afforded a quality education. More...
Issue 39, No. 4: Kansas Tax Experiment Greatly Reduces State Revenue, Serves as Cautionary Tale for NC
As the national economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, most states are seeing growth in tax revenue and using the increased revenue to begin restoring funding to public investments. Other states, including North Carolina and Kansas, are instead cutting investments in core public services as a result of enacting huge tax cuts. In fact, North Carolina is more than three weeks into the new fiscal year without a revised budget because the state can’t afford the tax cuts and there are simply too few dollars available to finance state priorities. More...
Issue 39, No. 3: Unemployment Insurance Cuts Harm Jobless Workers, Hurt Economy

In an economy where workers are laid off through no fault of their own and there remain too few jobs for those who want to work, unemployment insurance provides some support. This allows those workers to meet their basic needs while they look (and wait) for a new employment opportunity.  Unemployment insurance helps workers, employers, and the entire economy, as workers are able to stay engaged in the labor force and buy goods and services in their local communities. More ...

 

Issue 39, No. 2: North Carolina is Home to Fastest Growth in Share of People Living in High-Poverty Areas
Among the nation’s 50 states, North Carolina experienced the biggest increase in the proportion of people living in high-poverty areas between 2000 and 2010, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau  report. The growing number of North Carolinians living in disadvantaged neighborhoods is problematic because they face restricted access to the jobs, education, and networks that can improve their financial standing. The new report signals the need for policymakers to focus on the investments and policies that support ladders of opportunity, from Murphy to Manteo, to all North CaroliniansMore...
Issue 39, No. 1: No Fireworks in Sight for Military Families Who Filed NC EITC For Last Time This Year
Independence Day is a time for Americans to come together and celebrate the importance of community, country, and military families and veterans. Military families provide us all security, but far too often, economic security escapes them. Due to lawmakers’ decision to axe the North Carolina Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) last year, nearly 1 million families—including 64,000 military families—now have one less tool to help them make ends meet and avoid raising their children in poverty. More...
Issue 38, No. 4: NC experiences boom in low-wage jobs since Great Recession
North Carolina's recovery from the Great Recession has been marked by slow job growth and persistent challenges for working families to make ends meet. Making matters even more troubling is the reality that the overwhelming majority of job creation since the Recession has occurred in industries that on average pay low wages. Low-wage work is defined simply as work that pays less than what it takes for a family or an individual to make ends meets, according to a new report from the North Carolina Justice Center.
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Issue 38, No. 3: Too many families not making enough to make ends meet in NC
It's getting harder and harder to make ends meet in North Carolina. One in five North Carolina families earn too little to afford life’s essentials and move up the economic ladder, thanks to