MEDIA RELEASE: Unemployment rates increase in 72 counties, even as policymakers move to reduce access to food assistance

RALEIGH (September 30, 2015) — Even as policymakers move to reduce access to food assistance for jobless workers in North Carolina, today’s local labor market data show that unemployment rates have increased in 72 counties since January 2015.

A total of 81 counties continue to have more unemployed workers than before the start of the Great Recession. Of those counties, 59 could have received the waiver that legislators are prohibiting after July 1st, which is determined by their unemployment rate relative to the national average.

In the context of an uneven recovery and lack of jobs, the move by leaders in the General Assembly to cut off food aid will hurt North Carolinians and the broader economy. Without the modest support of SNAP (known in North Carolina as food stamps), between 85,000 and 105,000 North Carolinians will not be able to purchase food at their local grocery stores, further depressing consumer demand and driving the use of food banks that are already stretched to capacity.

“Ninety-one counties had more than one jobless worker per job opening in August," said Alexandra Sirota, director of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. "There are simply too few jobs for those who want to work. Without food assistance, North Carolinians will not be able to meet their nutritional needs or spend those dollars locally."

While adults who receive SNAP and are able to work can also engage in volunteer activities or skills training, these opportunities are hard to come by in many rural communities. In fact, the SNAP Employment & Training Program, aimed at providing skills training for those receiving food assistance, offered fewer than 500 training slots statewide.

“North Carolina policymakers have not committed to delivering skills training across the state to those who need it most," Sirota said. "In clear contrast to their rhetoric, their policy choices have not sought to bridge the skills gap but instead have underfunded and underdelivered in training workers for the jobs of today and the future."

The prohibition of a SNAP time-limit waiver will block the state from ever seeking a waiver in future downturns that would help ensure jobless workers are able to eat, even when they can't find work.

Click here for a table on complete county data.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Alexandra Sirota, alexandra@ncjustice.org, 919.861.1468; Jeff Shaw, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).

 

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