RALEIGH (December 19, 2022) – A new report from the North Carolina Justice Center highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working North Carolinians. The State of Working North Carolina 2022 provides an in-depth analysis of the pandemic’s missed policy opportunities, as well as unprecedented moves by lawmakers that prevented poverty and protected frontline workers. The resulting upheaval after these critical workforce supports ended reinvigorated North Carolina’s labor movement, and now the state is at a pivotal moment for workers’ rights issues.
The full State of Working North Carolina website includes interactive data visualization and storytelling elements from report interviewees.
The report highlights policies implemented during the pandemic to bolster a struggling workforce—like extended Unemployment Insurance and emergency paid sick days—which were a lifeline that kept an estimated 25 million people from experiencing poverty during the pandemic. Unfortunately, these initial improvements were short-lived, and working North Carolinians again find themselves facing policy gaps that risk their health and economic well-being.
“While many of us are eagerly preparing to celebrate the holidays with our families, the low-wage working people of our state are facing enormous financial and logistical strain just trying to provide the basic needs for theirs,” said Ana Pardo, Co-Director of the Workers’ Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center. “The pandemic showed us that it’s not only possible to do right by working people, it’s urgently important that we do so.”
Extensive interviews with working North Carolinians in sectors such as food service and child care highlight the negative impact of our state’s lackluster workplace policies and workforce supports on women, Black and Brown workers, and those at the intersections of those identities.
“I remember being at work so sick with the flu, waiting on customers when I was a server or when I was a barista at Starbucks because what else can I do?” asked one interviewee, Jen Hampton, a restaurant worker from Asheville. “What are your options? Unless you literally cannot stand up, you have to go to work sick because you gotta feed your family.”
Additional features of the report include:
- A look at staffing attrition in the child and elder care sectors, which has increased burnout among remaining employees and made it harder for families to access care
- The impact of long COVID on the labor force, which has led 44 percent of workers to reduce their hours and 29 percent to leave their jobs altogether
- The “Great Resignation,” during which an average of more than 150,000 North Carolinians quit their jobs each month throughout 2021 and the first eight months of 2022
- Policy recommendations to improve conditions for working North Carolinians, such as increased minimum wage, an increased duration and benefit cap on unemployment insurance, guaranteed sick leave and pregnancy accommodations, and the right for private employees to collectively bargain