Wages are down, job creation lags, and many communities are still stuck in the recession, new report finds

RALEIGH (March 16, 2015) – Seven years after the Great Recession began, recovery still eludes much of North Carolina, according to a new report from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.

“There are not enough jobs for everyone who wants to work, wages are not keeping up with inflation, and the recovery has completely bypassed huge parts of the state,” said Patrick McHugh, economic analyst with the BTC and author of the report. “Simply put, North Carolina’s economy is not working for everyone.”

The worst of the recession is behind us, but the lingering damage continues to weigh down communities and families across the state, the report said. When you look at how the recovery in North Carolina stacks up to the nation, there is more cause for alarm than celebration. North Carolina job creation has generally followed the national trend over the course of the recession and recovery. However, most of the improvement in North Carolina’s economy in the last few years is the result of the U.S. economy returning from the brink of depression.

While economic output has rebounded, there are still many ways in which the comeback in North Carolina has been decidedly wanting. The state has failed to create enough jobs to keep pace with its growing population. The percentage of employed North Carolinians is still well below pre-recession levels, and the state has also fallen below the national average for employment, where it had been consistently ahead of the nation prior to the recession.

Wages and salaries have also been remarkably flat for the last seven years. Paychecks are failing to keep pace with inflation and have fallen behind the national average since 2007.

“North Carolina workers are still doing their part to support economic growth, but they are increasingly left out of the prosperity that their toils create,” McHugh said.

Employment has declined in industries that have served as the foundation for middle-class North Carolina families while many of the new jobs being created are in low-wage industries. The average income in industries that have increased employment over the last seven years is almost $10,000 lower than the average income in industries that have seen employment decline. The bulk of the job growth has been at the bottom of the wage scale in industries such as Waste Services, Health Care Assistance, and Food Services, all of which pay less than the state average.

Recovery has also been wildly inconsistent across the state. The recovery has largely been limited to urban and suburban areas, with almost all of the counties that posted employment gains located in or near a major metropolitan area, with a handful of others benefiting from tourism or military installations. Ethnic disparities also persist. The unemployment rate for black North Carolina residents jumped more dramatically over the last seven years than for white North Carolinians. Both groups still have unemployment rates that surpass pre-recession levels, but black North Carolinians struggle more, on average, to find jobs in the post-recession economy.

“The last seven years have seen North Carolina partially recover from the worst economic shock in generations, but the state remains on an uneven footing,” McHugh said. “While it’s welcome news that the worst of the recession is past, there is no time for complacency given the work that still needs to be done.”

Read the report at this link: https://www.ncjustice.org/publications/growth-without-prosperity-seven-years-after-the-great-recession-started-recovery-still-eludes-north-carolina/

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Patrick McHugh, patrick.mchugh@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2183; Jeff Shaw, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).