RALEIGH (February 3, 2016) — New time limits for food assistance are markedly out of step with the economic reality in most North Carolina communities. The latest local labor market data from the end of 2015 show that, with more job seekers than openings in most North Carolina counties, the new three-month time limit expects impoverished North Carolinians to secure work that simply isn’t there to be found.

Due to a federal law, food assistance rules went into effect in 23 of North Carolina’s 100 counties on January 1st, reducing access to food assistance for many childless adults if they don’t meet the exemptions allowed. The additional 77 counties that qualified for a federal waiver due to their weak labor market will implement the time limit on July 1st due to the decision by the North Carolina General Assembly and Governor McCrory to prohibit the current waiver after that date and at any point in the future.

Unfortunately, there are not enough jobs to go around in almost every one of those 77 counties, and in turn, many struggling North Carolinians stand to lose essential food assistance even if they are doing everything they can find employment. (For more information in the reduction in food assistance, see the recent Budget & Tax Center Policy Basic.)

“Unemployment was on the rise for most North Carolina communities during 2015, even while it was declining across the country,” said Patrick McHugh, economic analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “North Carolina’s economy simply did not create enough jobs for everyone who is desperate to find work.”

Other findings from the county data include:

  • The unemployment rate increased in 88 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in 2015.
  • In 94 counties, there were more people looking for work at the end of 2015 than a year earlier.
  • Two-thirds (67) of North Carolina’s counties are still below their pre-recession levels of employment.

Other findings from the metropolitan data include:

  • Unemployment grew faster than employment in almost every metropolitan area in North Carolina. While most cities added jobs during 2015, every metropolitan area except Charlotte saw the rolls of the unemployed expand even more.
  • An hour’s work buys less today than it did before the Great Recession in eight of North Carolina’s 15 metropolitan areas. Adjusting for inflation, workers in Asheville, Goldsboro, Greensboro-High Point, Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, New Bern, Raleigh, Rocky Mount, and Winston-Salem earned less than they did at the end of 2007.

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