By Alexandra Forter Sirota, Tazra Mitchell & Allan Freyer
North Carolina’s recovery from the Great Recession began officially with the rest of the nation in 2009, but has continued to be slow and uneven across the state, with some communities doing much better than others and a very few experiencing economic gains and greater economic security. The result is that many communities and many groups of workers in North Carolina continue to experience a recession-like shortage of jobs, as well as the pernicious effects of a boom in low-wage work. Taken together, the uneven recovery and growth in jobs that pay less than what it takes for families to make ends meet are splitting North Carolinians into two states economically depending on where workers live and their background. Such conditions are making it much harder for the state to fully recover and succeed in the next economy, which will require inclusion, innovation, and diversity to once again position North Carolina competitively in the world.
The State of Working North Carolina is published each year to provide an assessment of the economy with a focus on how workers are faring, pulling together the latest data on jobs, wages, makeup of the labor force, and economic and geographic inequality. According to this year’s report:
- Almost six out of every 10 new jobs created since the end of the recession are in industries that pay poverty-level wages, keeping workers trapped in poverty even when they are working full-time.
- The growth in low-wage work is disproportionately impacting workers of color and women: 13.2 percent of women, 13.5 percent of African-Americans, and 23 percent of Latinos earn below the living income standard, compared to 9.7 percent of men and 9 percent of whites.
- The persistence of higher unemployment rates for African-Americans is in part being driven by the greater labor force resiliency of African-American workers. Since the recession, African-Americans have not dropped out of the labor force at the same level as white workers.
- There are approximately 260,000 North Carolina working families who live in poverty, with 12.8 percent of working families earning poverty wages.
- 13 of 14 metro areas saw labor forces decline since June 2013. For eight metros, the decline in unemployment was driven by the unemployed moving out of the labor force rather into jobs.
- Rural employment dropped 2.7 percent since the start of the recovery while the state’s large metropolitan areas have seen 6.5 percent job growth.
The State of Working North Carolina will give policymakers, the public, and advocates for change insight into the economic trends that hamper the North Carolina’s recovery.