Prosperity Watch

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