Prosperity Watch

Issue 65, No. 2: Uptick in Median Household is Long-Awaited but More Work Remains to Restore Previous Living Standards
For the first time since the economic recovery began, the Tar Heel household at the mid-point, or median, of the income distribution brought in more income than the previous year.  But that growth has not been sufficient to bring North Carolina households to the same level of income as the nation nor to where they were a decade before. In 2015 the median household income in North Carolina brought in $47,830, which is $1,216 more income than it did in 2014. More...

 

Issue 65, No. 1: The Working Poor make up one-third of the North Carolina workforce
Since the great recession, North Carolina has struggled to create jobs which pay workers a wage that meets their families’ needs and boosts economic activity. As a result, one-third of workers in the state earn below a poverty level wage. This is the 2ndworst ranking in the nation, putting North Carolina only slightly ahead of Arkansas. A poverty wage is defined as the wage at which a full-time worker’s income still places them below the federal poverty threshold for a family of four or $11.65, above the minimum wage in the state of $7.25. More...
Issue 64, No. 5: More than 20 percent of NC students attend a high-poverty school
According to data from the National Equity Atlas, one out of every five children in North Carolina attends a high-poverty school. Among students of color, that number is one in three. High-poverty schools are defined as schools in which 75 percent or more of the student body qualifies for the federal free or reduced priced lunch program.  More ... 
 
Issue 64, No. 4: Deep poverty grows in NC and in the nation
It has been 20 years since changes in 1996 to the system of welfare that provided income and other support through skills training and services for the country’s poorest households. The result of those changes—which reduced cash assistance, put in place strict time limits and failed to integrate the services to support work or address the lack of work—has been a well-documented increase in deep poverty nationally. More ... 
Issue 64, No. 3: N.C. teacher pay still lagging as they go back to school
As children, families, teachers and communities prepare to head back to school, the issue of teacher pay continues to linger in North Carolina. Despite incremental changes in the past two years by state lawmakers to change the structure of pay for teachers and invest more in teacher pay, North Carolina teachers remain near the bottom among their peers in other states for average pay.  Even with the changes to the state’s teacher plan made in the 2016-17 budget, analysis shows that average teacher pay will likely just reach $49,620. More ...
Issue 64, No. 2: More than 120,000 North Carolinians are paid minimum wage or less
The failure to enact a robust state minimum wage and a lack of income growth for most workers are leaving far too many North Carolinians struggling to get by. According to an analysis conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 120,000 North Carolinians earned at or below the minimum wage last year, an increase of more than two and half times from several years ago. More ...

Issue 64, No. 1: Number of North Carolinians on SNAP falling quickly

The number of North Carolinians on SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) fell quickly in April compared to January, especially in the counties that reinstated the three-month time limit for childless, non-disabled adults. The data covers the first month in which 23 of the state’s 100 counties began cutting people off SNAP after re-imposing the three-month time limit in January. More ... 

Issue 63, No. 2: Decline in wages for North Carolina workers among deepest in the South

In an economic expansion like the one the nation and North Carolina has experienced since 2009, workers should see their work wages at least keep up with the cost of basic goods and services, ultimately allowing them to support their families and participate in local economies across the state. The current economic expansion for the median North Carolina worker has failed, however, to deliver this critical outcome. More ...

Issue 63, No. 1: Skimping on Public Investments Hampers North Carolina’s Future Economic Success

The state budgets enacted since the 2010 fiscal year have increasingly failed to keep up with public needs. State spending as a part of the economy—measured by state personal income—has consistently fallen year after year in the past few years. The new budget continues this trend. It caps off the only period as far back as 1971 in which state spending declined as a part of the economy for eight consecutive years while the economy itself grew. More ... 
Issue 62, No. 3: 100 months since the Great Recession started, 100,000+ North Carolinians still out of work
May 2016 marks an anniversary of sorts for North Carolina and the nation: the 100th month since the start of the Great Recession. Despite a national economic recovery that began in July 2009; however, the lack of progress in North Carolina since  the start of the Great Recession shows just how unlike prior recoveries this one has been.  More ... 

Issue 62, No. 2: N.C.’s economic expansion fails to deliver for most families, consolidates income of top 1 percent

Economic Policy Institute has published updated data on the state of inequality across the country, finding that lopsided income growth continues to be the case in most states, including North Carolina. In the current expansion, the top 1 percent of North Carolinians saw average real income growth of 7.1 percent, while the bottom 99 percent saw their average real income decline by 0.6 percent. This growing inequality of incomes will only hurt North Carolina’s economic strength. More ...

Issue 62, No. 1: Still not enough jobs in many NC communities

North Carolina still cannot be given a clean bill of economic health. Job growth remains concentrated in a few parts of the state, leaving many people looking for work that doesn’t exist in their communities. With economic opportunity scarce in much of North Carolina, it’s clear that policy choices made over the last several years have not addressed the deepest challenges facing our state. More ... 
 
Issue 61, No. 4: Allowing discrimination is bad economics
We all suffer when biases are given unchecked rein over who gets hired, promoted, fired, and served — even if we don’t know it at the time. Discrimination is inherently irrational in an economic sense, and when it is allowed to pervade private sector decisions, North Carolina’s economy is less efficient and competitive. By rolling back many workplace protections, House Bill 2 will sap our state’s economic vitality, often in subtle ways that don’t create headlines. More ...
Issue 61, No. 3: Middle class decline in North Carolina metro areas

The middle class is declining nationwide, and in North Carolina that decline is primarily increasing the numbers of low-income adults, not the wealthy. From 2000 to 2014, the number of adults in middle income households in North Carolina declined by 4 percentage points, the fourth greatest decline, after Michigan, Georgia and Indiana, in the nation. The loss of a middle class is being driven by declines in median household income, growing income inequality and the loss of jobs in industries such as manufacturing, for example. More ...

Issue 61, No. 2: Wage gains mostly going to folks already doing well
Real wages for most North Carolinians are still lower than when the economy hit its most recent nadir in 2009. Workers at the very top of the wage scale have seen their paychecks grow, but not so for most working North Carolinians. As shown here, wages are still below 2009 levels for most of the workforce, with only workers at the very top seeing any appreciable gains. Wages for the bottom 10 percent of earners have slipped by 30 cents an hour. More ...
Issue 61, No. 1: Almost Half of North Carolina Falling Behind the Nation
State leaders touting recent job gains often ignore how many communities have fallen further behind over the past few years. Employment growth in North Carolina has been slightly faster than the national average, but not all parts of the state are prospering. As shown here, almost half of the counties in North Carolina have not kept up with the national rate of job growth since the start of 2013. More ...
Issue 60, No. 4: Personal income in NC not keeping up with neighboring states
Income data shows that economic policy coming out of Raleigh is not making most North Carolina families more prosperous. We continue to benefit from a comparatively strong economy across the Southeast, but North Carolina is by no means leading the way. More...
Issue 60, No. 3: North Carolina is not a job growth leader
There’s nothing in North Carolina’s economic record of late that should inspire adulation or contentment. The worst of the recession is past, but the recovery here in North Carolina is hardly the envy of the nation. Fifteen states created jobs at a faster clip than did North Carolina over the last year. Employment in our state increased by 2.5% over the last 12 months, which is good enough to slightly outpace the national average, but not enough to land us among the national leaders. More...
Issue 60, No. 2: Tax swap will erode public investments over time
North Carolina’s reliance on the personal income tax has yielded state revenues that have better kept pace with the long-run growth of the state’s economy and residents’ incomes. Personal income tax revenues have outperformed other, more volatile sources of revenue in growth and have enabled North Carolina to better meet fast-growing demand for public investments and services that include public education, physical and mental health services, and public safety. More...
Issue 60, No. 1: Land of Unequal Opportunity
An economy that works well for everyone remains elusive for many North Carolinians, according to county-by-county Economic Snapshots that the Budget & Tax Center released last week. The depth of economic hardship varies strikingly depending on where one lives. Historic patterns of hardship make some regions more susceptible to poverty and inequality of opportunity than others. This is particularly true in the rural eastern and far western parts of the state where residents have poorer access to high-quality public schools, high-quality jobs, medical care, and other networks that can improve their well-being and financial standing. More...
Issue 59, No. 4: Unemployment in North Carolina not declining with the nation
North Carolina continues to have persistently high poverty and low employment levels. And yet surprisingly, pundits continue to proclaim economic victory and focus on the state’s unemployment rate as an indicator that policy choices have led to better economic conditions. Even by that limited measure, however, North Carolina has underperformed the nation and our neighbors. More...
Issue 59, No. 3: Underemployment widespread in North Carolina
Our economy is leaving far too many North Carolinians without a job that can support a family. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks unemployment, found that more than 200,000 North Carolinians were forced to take part-time employment in 2015 because full-time work was not available.More...
Issue 59, No. 2: Lack of construction and manufacturing jobs holding down NC wages
The forces holding down wages are legion, but one of the main culprits is the lack of robust job growth in industries that pay middle-class wages. Here in North Carolina, manufacturing and construction jobs are still much harder to come by than before the Great Recession, and the absence of those good-paying jobs is undermining wages across the board. More...
Issue 59, No. 1: Economic Growth Leaving Many North Carolina Communities Behind
Far too many local communities in North Carolina, and nationally, are being left behind by economic growth and a changing economy, according to new analysis by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG). Using U.S. Census data from 2010 to 2014, EIG calculates what it calls a Distressed Communities Index (DCI) using seven particular metrics: housing vacancy rates, the number of adults working, the poverty rate, median income, the number of people with high school degrees, the change in employment and the rate of business formation. Distress scores are calculated at the zip code level and ranked based on the seven selected metrics, with higher distress scores indicating greater economic distress. More...
Issue 58, No. 4: Middle-Class Living Standards Are Stalled in North Carolina
North Carolina’s off-kilter economy is keeping middle-class living standards out of reach for many, making it more difficult for families to get ahead and for the state to rebuild a stronger, more inclusive economy. A Tar Heel household at the mid-point, or median, of the income distribution brought in less income in 2014 than it did at the start of the millennium, according to United States Census Bureau. More...
Issue 58, No. 3: State EITC lets working North Carolinians keep more of what they earn, boosts economy
Low- and middle-income taxpayers in North Carolina pay a larger share of their income in state and local taxes than the wealthiest taxpayers in the state. This inequity in North Carolina’s tax code makes it difficult for working families to make ends meet and further challenges the state’s ability to invest in communities and opportunity across the state. More...
Issue 58, No. 2: The future of work is already here
This week, the Institute for Emerging Issues is hosting a discussion of FutureWork: how automation and rapid technological development is changing how we work, for whom we work, and how our work is rewarded. The role of public policy in ensuring that such a transformation delivers the greatest opportunity and benefits to the most North Carolinians must be central if our state hopes to continue to thrive and compete. More...

 

Issue 58, No. 1: Growth in North Carolina metro areas hasn't increased inclusion
The Metro Monitor, a new tool from the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, identifies new measures of economic success for metropolitan areas. Their analysis looks at the 100 largest metro areas in America, including four metros in North Carolina, and ranks each according to performance on growth, prosperity and inclusion. There's an important underlying message to this new research: policies need to better connect an increase in long-term growth with improved prosperity and inclusion. More...
Issue 57, No. 4: Job scarcity, low wages keeping millions of North Carolinians in or near poverty
The path to economic opportunity and security in North Carolina needs weeding and repaving. The Assets and Opportunities Scorecard, produced annually by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), shows that a tepid recovery and stagnate wages have left millions of North Carolinians within a few months of falling into poverty. The report’s topline ranking puts North Carolina 38th in the country in overall economic outcomes. While that ranking is disconcerting, the specific data points that contribute to our state’s poor showing are even more disturbing. More...
Issue 57, No. 3: School Funding Key to Students' Economic Prospects
Well-resourced schools can work economic wonders in the lives of individual students and entire communities. A new national study finds that increasing investment in schools that serve struggling communities makes it more likely that students in those schools will rise out of poverty and earn a decent living. More...
Issue 57, No. 2: Stark Inequality Pervades, Cuts Across Tar Heel County Lines
Income inequality has risen sharply over the last several decades, both here in North Carolina and across the nation. A major driver of income inequality is lopsided income distribution, with people at the top end of the economic ladder capturing a majority of income growth. This is in great contrast to earlier periods in our nation’s history when economic growth translated into broadly shared prosperity and jobs that pay enough to afford the basics. More...
Issue 57, No. 1: Threats to Prosperity Abound as 2016 Begins
As we witness a parade of claims that North Carolina’s economy is the envy of the nation, the facts tell a very different story. North Carolina’s economy is not working for everyone. The Budget & Tax Center recently published a series of charts that outline the many threats to prosperity that need to be named, highlighted, and discussed in 2016. To see the full Chartbook, and to pledge to be engaged this year, visit our Resolve to Act in 2016 page. More...
 
Issue 56, No. 3: North Carolina's Poverty Still 20% Higher than Pre-Recession Levels
From the mountains to the coast, poverty retains a fierce grip on nearly 1.7 million North Carolinians. Living below the federal poverty level of $23,850 annually for a family of four creates persistent hardship, as evidenced by newly-released data from the Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program. This data reveals poverty and income trends in all 100 counties—a level of specificity not possible in the data released by the Census Bureau in September. More...
Issue 56, No. 2: When work fails to pay, the economy loses a key boost
For most of the twentieth century, there was a central idea at the heart of the social contract in the United States—the core belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should earn enough to make ends meet and achieve upward income mobility over the course of a lifetime. Thanks to policy choices that eroded higher wage employment opportunities and grew low-wage work, however, the prospects of basic financial security and upward mobility are dimming for a growing number of working families in North Carolina. More...
Issue 56, No. 1: North Carolina's job growth not sufficient to boost the economy
The latest release of labor market data for North Carolina shows that North Carolina is not creating enough jobs for everyone that wants to work.  As of October 2015, 57.5 percent of North Carolinians were employed, leaving the state well below employment levels commonplace before the Great Recession. In the mid-2000s, employment levels reached a peak of about 63 percent. The percent of North Carolinians with a job remains below the national average, as it has been since the Great Recession. More...
Issue 55, No. 4: Nearly 1 in 5 North Carolina Households Struggle with Hunger
With the holidays around the corner, it is important to reflect on the sobering facts that paint a picture of 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. More...
Issue 55, No. 3: North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system not ready for next downturn
The announcement last week that the state’s unemployment insurance system has $1 billion in the Trust Fund is a step in the right direction for our state. But it's far from sufficient in demonstrating that the system is healthy enough to weather the next downturn. In fact, the Trust Fund balance meets an arbitrary threshold set in place by state policymakers in 2013 and will trigger the first round of tax cuts for employers. More...
Issue 55, No. 2: Worker compensation in North Carolina falling behind
North Carolina workers are seeing less and less of the value they create. Workers only took home 51% of the economic pie in 2013, which puts our state near the bottom nationally (37th out of 50 states) and below all of our neighboring states. The dwindling share of economic output going to compensation hurts workers and undermines our economy. Consumer spending is what drives our economy, so shrinking compensation costs North Carolina jobs by reducing demand for goods and services. More...
Issue 55, No. 1: North Carolina’s small towns and cities continue to experience weak labor markets
As of September 2015, 22 of the state’s 25 smaller cities and towns known as micropolitan areas continued to have more unemployed people than before September 2007 just before the Great Recession began. Persistent high numbers of unemployed are occurring even as the unemployment rate declines. This rate drop masks the range of challenges in weak labor markets including insufficient job creation to meet the growing population, declining numbers in the labor force and the resulting failure of wages for the average worker to increase. More...
Issue 54, No. 3: Significant shift in business structure contributed to income inequality
The way in which businesses are structured has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. The growth of pass-through business entities accounts for much of the rise in income inequality over the last three decades, according to a new study. In the past, businesses typically structured as C-corporations – traditional corporations subject to the corporate income tax – and these corporations earned the vast majority of business income. This is no longer the case, the study finds. C-corporations now account for less than half of business income, with “pass-through” entities – businesses whose income is taxed at the owner level – growing rapidly. More...
Issue 54, No. 2: How we avoided another Great Depression
The Great Recession would have become the Great Depression 2.0 without the effective response of federal policy, according to a new report. Using Moody’s Analytics’ highly respected macro-economic model, the report authors estimate that if the federal government had not used fiscal, monetary and spending policy tools, the national economy would have lost twice as many jobs and the economic downturn would have lasted twice as long. More...
Issue 54, No. 1: North Carolina employment level remains below national average
North Carolina's current job creation rate is slightly higher than the national average. But it's still not enough to provide employment to everyone who needs it. Our state has consistently lagged behind the rest of the nation since the start of the Great Recession, despite historically outperforming the U.S. in the number of employed people as a share of the population over age 16. Recent gains by North Carolina are just not enough to catch up to the rest of the nation. More...
Issue 53, No. 5: Up to 105,000 unemployed childless adults in NC would lose food aid in 2016 if legislators prohibit new waiver
North Carolina is the fifth hungriest state in the nation. Yet the state Senate gave tentative approval to a bill that unnecessarily restricts food aid for childless adults who are very poor and live in areas where jobs are scarce—regardless of how hard they are looking for work. States can temporarily suspend work-related time limits on federal food aid for areas with sustained high levels of unemployment. More...
Issue 53, No. 4: New Sales Tax Distribution Won’t Fix What Ails Rural North Carolina
Amidst a growing recognition that many local governments can’t invest sufficiently in their educational and economic systems, a much ballyhooed provision was included in the budget which changes sales tax distribution. Unfortunately, this move will not cure what ails rural North Carolina. Most of the revenue won’t go to the most economically distressed communities and there just aren’t enough dollars in the new fund to make up for years of underinvestment in rural communities. More...
Issue 53, No. 3: Saving Critical Components of Pro-Work Tax Credits Would Help Low-Wage Workers in NC
North Carolina’s low-wage recovery is making it impossible for families to make ends meet and is thus weakening the strength of the economy. The average North Carolinian is not experiencing wage growth and poverty is stuck high for families and communities across the state—but public policy can improve well-being for workers and their families. Congressional lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill this month and they alone can help 523,000 North Carolina families by saving key provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) that are scheduled to expire at the end of 2017. More...
Issue 53, No. 2: More productive but falling wages for North Carolina workers
For most of the past century, American workers and businesses saw hard work pay off—as workers increased their efficiency and their use of technology, they also increased the quantity and value of the goods they produced, generating additional profits for employers and higher wages for workers. Beginning in the 1970s that connection between productivity and wages frayed and the norm for workers in the 21st century is now quite different. More...
Issue 53, No. 1: With Wages Stagnating, the Price of Many Necessities Soars
Getting by is getting harder in North Carolina. The cost of some basic necessities are growing faster than wages in North Carolina, catching households that have to spend the bulk of their income on things like food and housing in a tightening vice. When families don’t earn enough to make ends meet, they can’t buy goods and services that provide jobs for other North Carolinians, so the entire economy slows down. More...
Issue 52, No. 4: Actual North Carolina Unemployment Still in Double Digits
Unemployment is still a major problem in North Carolina. The headline unemployment rate has inched up from 5.3% to 5.9% since the beginning of the year, but that still doesn’t tell the whole story. When people who have been forced out of the job market since the Great Recession by a lack of job openings are included, the actual unemployment rate is still in double digits, almost twice what is commonly reported. This gap between the official unemployment rate and the reality on the ground can skew the policy conversation, making it look like the good times are back when that’s not really the case. More...
Issue 52, No. 3: There are still more jobless workers than job openings in most NC counties
While North Carolina has certainly turned a corner in job creation after six years of an official economic recovery, it has not been sharp enough to generate the number or quality jobs needed in most North Carolina counties.  As we have written about previously in this space, the jobs that have been created since 2009 have been largely in low-wage occupations and concentrated in certain areas of the state. More...

 

Issue 52, No. 2: Senate-approved measure runs counter to North Carolinians’ values
North Carolinians value a quality education for every child, a vibrant main street, safe communities and healthy environments for their families. Many of North Carolina’s investments over the years reflect that value. A policy idea approved in committee by the North Carolina Senate last week and to be voted on the floor this week would make it increasingly difficult to live out our values by putting decisions about spending and taxes on autopilot. More...
Issue 52, No. 1: Even in Metro Centers, Unemployment Grew Faster than Employment since the Start of the Great Recession
The conversation about our state’s economic landscape often starts from the assumption that several urban centers are doing extremely well, while much of rural North Carolina is still mired in recession. When you really look at the data, however, the picture is not so cut and dried. More...
Issue 51, No. 5: Economic segregation in schools impacts education opportunity
For poor, minority families and students, economic segregation serves as a formidable barrier to opportunity. An interactive map produced by EdBuild, a national nonprofit that focuses on public education, highlights the stark economic segregation that exists among public schools across the country. EdBuild’s assessment of more than 13,000 school districts and respective poverty rates across the U.S. shows huge disparities in income levels among school districts. More...
Issue 51, No. 4: Economy-boosting jobs pay workers a wage to make ends meet
The central challenge confronting North Carolina is restoring the promise of work to our state's families, in turn delivering greater economic security, and the potential for workers' full participation in the economy. This #wageweek, advocates, practitioners, economists, and business leaders note that the erosion of the minimum wage standard has undermined that effort in addition to the failure to pursue other policies that support higher wages and quality jobs for everyone. More...
Issue 51, No. 3: State Budgets Can Be Strong Anti-Poverty Tools
Today more than 1.7 million North Carolinians find affording the basics such as rent, food, and childcare to be a daily challenge. The state’s poverty rate has either increased or stayed flat each year since 2007 even with the modest economic recovery. Despite such persistent levels of economic hardship, North Carolina’s top policymakers have yet to forge a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy for people and communities across the state. More...
Issue 51, No. 2: Workers in metropolitan areas are seeing declining wages
When adjusted for inflation, wages have decreased in eight of North Carolina’s Metropolitan areas. New data released last week paints a forbidding picture of North Carolina’s recovering economy. Employment has slowly risen since the recession, however, it still has not reached 2007 levels in most parts of the state. Although employment rates and workforce levels are important, they do not tell the whole story of North Carolina’s recovery. A question often ignored is: where are people finding work, and how much are those jobs paying? More...
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