MEDIA RELEASE: North Carolina families struggle to make ends meet due to decline in well-paying jobs

MEDIA RELEASE: North Carolina families struggle to make ends meet due to decline in well-paying jobs
Policymakers must shift focus to policies that create well-paying jobs and open path to middle class

RALEIGH (Aug. 2, 2011) – The long-term decline in well-paying jobs, accelerated by the Great Recession, is making it difficult for even families with full-time jobs to make ends meet, according to the newly released Living Income Standard report by the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center.

The 2010 Living Income Standard – a market-based approach developed by the BTC to estimate how much a working family must earn in order to pay for expenses – finds that a family of two adults and two children must earn more than double the federal poverty level just to afford very modest housing, food, childcare, health care, transportation, taxes and other necessities. In order to do so, the BTC report finds, both parents would have to earn a combined amount of $48,814 per year, which equates to $23.47 per hour over 40 hours a week, 52 weeks each year.

Too many North Carolina families already fall below the Living Income Standard and struggle to afford basic, everyday goods and services, the report released by the BTC finds. Unfortunately, projections for the types of jobs expected to grow in the state suggest that the occupations growing the fastest over the next decade will pay below the living income standard.

The Living Income Standard has been published periodically since 2001 and serves as a conservative measure of the full cost of making ends meet. The Living Income Standard uses comprehensive, local cost data to determine how much money a family needs to pay market prices for goods and services. The 2010 edition of the Living Income Standard has been updated for all 100 counties and includes the minimum amount necessary to make ends meet for four different family types.

If the current Living Income Standard is any indication, it’s imperative that North Carolina recommit to investing in working families and building a strong middle class, the report states, whether it’s by streamlining the application process for state programs such as Food Stamps and Medicaid, improving connections between education, training and jobs, or maintaining the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“A job that pays a living income represents a pathway to the middle class and an opportunity for greater participation in the economy and future economic security,” the report states.

Without attention focused on job-creating policies that meet the living income standard and provide benefits, however, job opportunities will continue to fall short for these families.

“Long-term trends in the labor market, in combination with the immediate challenges of the Great Recession, have placed significant challenges on these low-wage working families,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the BTC. “Without strong income supports and investments in the skills and education of the current and future workforce, North Carolina’s low-wage workers will continue to face enormous obstacles to advancing to the middle class.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Alexandra Forter Sirota, director, NC Budget & Tax Center, alexandra@ncjustice.org, 919.861.1468; Edwin McLenaghan, Public Policy Analyst, Budget & Tax Center, edwin@ncjustice.org, 919.856.3192; Jeff Shaw, director of communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (mobile).