Workers play a keystone role in North Carolina’s economy, as both producers and consumers of goods and services. Improvements in the well-being of workers and their families are requisite for a strong economic recovery. Unfortunately, North Carolina working families lost financial ground and experienced diminished opportunities through the decade of the 2000s due to several economic trends, including a dramatic increase in income inequality and the decline of the manufacturing industry.
The outlook for workers worsened during the Great Recession and its aftermath. North Carolina ranked 6th in the nation for most jobs lost since the start of the Great Recession, and the unemployment rate is still nearly twice pre-recession levels. The lack of employment opportunities has increased economic hardship—North Carolina’s poverty rate reached 17.5 percent in 2010, the 12th highest in the nation, and North Carolina had the nation’s 12th lowest median household income.
These outcomes are a result of the economic conditions in North Carolina prior to the Great Recession, the severity of the recession’s impact on the state, and policymakers’ decisions to cut state investments in the tools that could rebuild the economy—an educated workforce, sound infrastructure and healthy communities.
North Carolina has a long way to go in orienting its efforts to improve outcomes for its working families, but greater understanding of what is happening in the economy combined with policies that support workers and their families will help us ensure a better decade for all. This State of Working North Carolina series lays out the broad trends that have characterized North Carolina’s economic landscape since 2000 and then turns to an analysis of the state’s slow economic recovery. Then the series looks at how these trends have affected North Carolina’s working families and how adopting some key policy priorities North Carolina’s leaders can chart a better path forward in the next decade.
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