Prosperity Watch Issue 9

Prosperity Watch Issue 9, No. 3: North Carolina's job deficit persists

North Carolina’s job deficit remained above half a million in December 2011. The jobs deficit is the difference between the number of jobs North Carolina has and the number it needs to regain its pre-recession employment rate. That number was 512, 800 in December 2011 and includes the 295,300 jobs North Carolina lost plus the 217,500 jobs it needs to keep up with the 5.2% growth in population that North Carolina has experienced in the 48 months since the recession began.

To reach pre-recession unemployment rates by 2015, North Carolina will need to create 16,000 jobs each month for three years. In the past year, North Carolina has grown just 19,000 jobs. While moving in the right direction, job creation will need to accelerate—and further job losses halted—to close the state’s jobs deficit in three years.

Prosperity Watch Issue 9, No. 2: Persistent Poverty

Persistent poverty is a measure developed by the United States Department of Agriculture and is defined by both the percentage of people living in poverty and the period of time that the poverty rate has remained high in a given geographic region. The current thresholds for this definition find a county to be experiencing persistent poverty if at least 20 percent of the people in the county lived in poverty in every year from 1970 to 2000. (1)

As of 2000, there were 10 counties in North Carolina that fit the definition of persistently poor: Bertie, Bladen, Columbus, Halifax, Martin, Northampton, Pitt, Robeson, Tyrrell and Washington counties. (2)

Counties with persistent poverty face significant challenges in providing residents with economic opportunity. The lack of wealth, few employment opportunities and a crumbling opportunity structure in these communities makes it difficult to overcome the legacy of persistent hardship and provide pathways to mobility.

(1) Due to differences in the survey methods and data sources, the available county-level estimates of poverty from 2010 cannot be compared to decennial census data.
(2) U.S. Census Bureau data were used for the years 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 to determine those counties that had poverty levels of more than 20 percent.

Prosperity Watch Issue 9, No. 1: The Racial Income Gap in North Carolina

Forty-seven years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, economic opportunity remains out of reach for many North Carolinians, especially for people of color. Last year, the average African-American and Latino household earned 63 cents and 65 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by the average White household.

The racial economic divide is clearly illustrated in the figure below. Median household income (MHI)—the dollar amount in the middle of the income scale—for African-Americans is, on average from 2006 to 2010, approximately $20,000 less than the MHI for Whites. Over this five year period, the average North Carolinian household and White household experienced a 6 percent decline in MHI. The drop in income is more dramatic for the Latino households, which saw a 10.1 percent drop in MHI.

Joblessness—another indicator highlighting the racial economic divide—is also a major problem in North Carolina. The average 2010 unemployment rate among African-Americans in North Carolina was 17.4 percent, 10.7 percent for Latinos, and 8.7 percent among Whites. More distressing, the unemployment rate for African-American young adults ages 20 to 24 was 26.5 percent, compared to 9.9 percent for Latinos and 15.7 percent for Whites.

The data shows that North Carolina, like the nation, has a long way to go to close the racial income gap.