Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Study: N.C. unemployment and inequality are worse than you think

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2011 at 5:14 PM

When North Carolina’s jobless rate rose to a 15-month high last month, you probably, and rightfully, thought the new rate of 10.5 percent unemployment was terrible. The sadder truth is, that figure only begins to tell the story of the state’s employment crisis and its effect on income inequality.

The N.C. Justice Center has released a new report, which analyzes a lot of dismal, but unfortunately accurate, statistical information (so you and I don’t have to). The NCJC looked at figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that take into account people who have had to settle for part-time work, as well as those who are “marginally attached” to the labor force (those who have looked for work in the past year but not in the last four weeks). The short version is that 17.9 percent of North Carolinians — nearly one in five — is looking for full-time work. That, dear readers, is approaching Great Depression numbers.

Here’s a handy chart that illustrates the findings.

unemploy_rate.jpg

Another part of the NCJC report reveals that, although households with more money than most of us still lost ground from 2006 to 2010, income inequality in N.C. has worsened during the Great Recession. In fact, figures show what the report termed an “hourglass economy, where the wealthy do well, those with low incomes fare poorly, and the middle class disappears.” The chart below reveals that incomes of people in the top 20 percent dropped by 3.3 percent, while the incomes of people in the bottom 20 percent fell by 7.2 percent.

income_losses_jpg.gif

Statistics, figures and charts can seem impersonal because, well, they are. But it’s always a good idea to try to see the human stories behind the dry numbers and the twitchy-looking lines. What one can see from NCJC’s latest study is that way too many people in our state are hurting — badly — from our stagnant, slow-moving economy. As the report concludes, widening income inequality raises vital questions of societal fairness and “carries serious economic and social costs.” Rather than flogging sad, repressive social policies, handing over money to millionaires, and helping out-of-state companies that operate in N.C. avoid paying state taxes, the General Assembly’s new GOP bosses should, as this study puts it, “work towards launching all families on a path of upward mobility through efforts to create jobs that pay family-sustaining wages.”

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