RALEIGH (March 16, 2020) — New local labor market data show North Carolinians are economically fragile right now, making them especially vulnerable to the effects of the current pandemic.

“I’m worried about what we’re going to see happen over the next few months when millions of North Carolinians are currently holding on by an economic thread. With so much of the job growth over the past decade being in poorly paying hourly positions without benefits, we’re extremely vulnerable to the effects of the COVID-19 virus. Most people in service jobs already weren’t making ends meet, so even a temporary loss of work or wages could be devastating. We won’t see it in the labor market data yet, but it’s a risk we’ve left ourselves open to by relying so heavily on low-wage employment.” – Patrick McHugh, North Carolina Budget and Tax Center Senior Economic Analyst

According to the most recent labor market data, economic challenges facing North Carolina include:

  • Poverty wages are widespread: 25 percent of working North Carolinians earned poverty wages in 2018 (the most recent data available).
  • Slow employment growth in last year: Between January 2019 and January of this year, the number of jobs in North Carolina only increased by 2.1 percent, significantly slower than the best period of the recovery in 2014-2016.
  • Level of employment remains depressed: Only 59.3 percent of North Carolinians were working in January 2020, lower than the national average and before the Great Recession.

For charts showing the most recent data, visit the Budget & Tax Center’s Labor Market page at NCJustice.org/labormarket.

For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out the Budget & Tax Center’s Prosperity Watch report.

The Budget and Tax Center conducts non-partisan analysis of state budget and tax policy and monitors economic conditions in the state. We produce timely and accessible research that contributes to policy discussions and public debate, with the goal of building a broader understanding of the role of policy in supporting economic opportunity for all.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT Patrick McHugh, Budget & Tax Center Senior Economic Analyst, at Patrick.McHugh@ncjustice.org or 919-856-2183; or Mel Umbarger, Senior Communications Specialist, at mel@ncjustice.org.