State of Working North Carolina: A steady state of low-wage jobs?

The week of Labor Day marks an important opportunity to revisit the impact of the Great Recession and the still-struggling economic recovery on the lives, jobs, and wages of North Carolina’s workers. This year’s report on The State of Working North Carolina provides a detailed snapshot of many of these trends, focusing particularly on how workers are faring in the middle of a historic transformation in the state’s economy.

Of particular importance in these times, the report shows that to truly measure economic progress, North Carolina’s policymakers must look at the growth in median wages not just productivity or job creation to ensure that the economy is thriving. 

Here are some of the quick findings in this year's report:

  • North Carolina's median wage is now lower than it was in 1999 (taking inflation into account). Nearly a quarter of workers earn less than $23,550 - the poverty threshold for a family of four.
  • The state has yet to recover from all of the jobs lost during the recession, and job growth is failing to keep up with population growth.
  • Many of the jobs that have been created are in lower-paying services such as food processing, retail, and hospitality, and now account for 83 percent of employment in the state.
  • Income inequality between the top wage earners and those at the bottom has skyrocketed. African Americans have been hit particularly hard, earning nearly $5 less per hour on average than their white counterparts.
  • Rural areas of the state continue to lose jobs, while large and small metropolitan areas are slowly adding jobs.  


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