The extent of voters’ concerns about the economy was made apparent in last week’s election but should come as no surprise given the persistent economic challenges facing many North Carolina families. North Carolina’s leaders must rethink how our state works to create lasting prosperity and economic security.
“Last week was a wake-up call to political leaders regardless of party or ideological persuasion,” said Patrick McHugh, a Budget & Tax Center Policy Analyst at the NC Justice Center. “North Carolinians have seen middle-class security slip away while many are working for poverty wages, so it’s small wonder that voters are seeking real policy solutions to persistent economic challenges.”
This month’s labor market release for October 2016 from the North Carolina Department of Commerce demonstrate the reality of economic concerns that North Carolinians care about, including:
- North Carolina still needs a raise. A tightening labor market has finally produced several months of decent wage gains across the country, but an hour’s work for the average worker in North Carolina still pays $2 less than the national average. North Carolina has witnessed a boom in low-wage work over the past several years, leaving many working North Carolinians on the brink of financial ruin. Raising the state minimum wage to $12 an hourwould help 1.3 million North Carolinians to support their families, and would boost overall economic growth by growing consumer demand by billions of dollars a year. Reinstating the state Earned Income Tax Credit can also reduce working poverty and increase consumer demand.
- Support North Carolinians looking for work: There were approximately 237,000 North Carolinians looking for work last month, and the share of North Carolinians with a job is still well shy of where we were before the recession. In a changing and challenging economy, we need an unemployment insurance system that is up to the task, so that people who lose a job through no fault of their own don’t lose everything as they search for a new job or train for a new career.
- Help people reconnect with the labor market: Job growth in North Carolina has not kept pace with the state’s growing population over the past several years. Even though the official unemployment rate is down, we have not actually recovered. Approximately 58 percent of North Carolinians had a job in October, still well below what we experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. Returning North Carolina to pre-recession rates of employment would take roughly 400,000 more jobs than currently exist. Clearly, policies of the past several years have not delivered enough good jobs, and we have not done nearly enough help unemployed North Carolinians to get the opportunities that do exist.
For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out the Budget & Tax Center’s weekly Prosperity Watch platform.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT Patrick McHugh, Budget & Tax Center Economic Analyst, at Patrick.firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 856-2183.