Prosperity Watch (Issue 66, No. 4): Industry Changes over the Recovery Shows Wage and Training Needs in N.C.

Oct. 24, 2016

The long-term transformation of North Carolina’s economy that saw the loss of middle-wage jobs and the growth in high-wage and low-wage work over the past three decades accelerated in the Great Recession and continues in the recovery. 

Data released on conditions in the North Carolina labor market in September demonstrate that industry trends continue to deliver a changing landscape for workers.  This change makes it more difficult for workers to find jobs, earn family-sustaining wages and immediately match their skills to where the jobs are without additional training and education.

Over the past year, job growth has occurred in some of the industries hardest hit by the Great Recession like Construction.  However, these more recent trends mask the deeper hole that many middle-wage industries must climb out of after the losses that accelerated in 2007.  Traditionally middle-wage industries such as Manufacturing and Construction have still not recovered from the losses of the Recession, which is harmful to the landscape of employment, particularly in communities where these jobs have provided a key pathway to the middle class.  Even in Trade, Transportation and Utilities, where growth has happened since the Recession, the growth rate has been modest.  Meanwhile, growth in industries that require additional training like Education and Health and some occupations within Professional and Business Services has occurred but is likely to require retraining for the workforce to be able to enter those industries.  

The data all point to a trend that is not new in North Carolina: a loss of middle-wage, middle-skill employment.  There are important ways in which North Carolina may be able to secure manufacturing jobs through advanced manufacturing and other tools, but the numbers are unlikely to meet the needs of the state’s growing workforce.  It is therefore necessary for a focus to be placed on skills training that is relevant to where jobs will grow so that workers can be certain to move into  work that delivers economic security.

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