Economic reports push confidence higher

March 14, 2013 

It is more than just a blip. Last month, the United States added 236,000 jobs, and the nation’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent. The numbers are better than forecasters expected and heartening in a country that has suffered greatly since the Great Recession really hit in late 2008 and dragged on and on and on.

For those who remain without jobs, of course, it might as well still be the height of the recession.

Most of the economic news since 2008 has been grim, with job losses and high unemployment and a crushing mortgage crisis. President Obama’s attempts to boost the economy, with stimulus packages and then with a special jobs bill (largely rejected by the Republicans in Congress) have met partisan resistance and skepticism, but it’s clear some things have worked.

The good thing, or one of the good things, about the February numbers is the confidence they will bring to investors and business owners, many of whom have been sitting on large sums of cash but hesitant to invest in new hiring. That hesitancy should ease, because this is a sign of robust life.

In North Carolina, where the unemployment rate is 9.2 percent, the need is for jobs is in more rural areas. (Raleigh’s rate is 6.7 percent, and other urban areas have more job-development prospects with high-tech industry, for example.) That’s going to take aggressive pursuit of industry and imagination from the state’s leaders.

And it will demand continued investment from the state in community colleges, which are accomplished at job-training and able to gear up to help a particular industry get workers ready. Those schools have been life-savers for many displaced workers in a couple of ways, first in giving them hope that they can find other ways to make a living for their families, and satisfaction in learning new skills, thus building their confidence.

It’s likely it will take the state longer to recuperate fully from the recession, because its economy already was shaky even when the recession began. North Carolina had lost many thousands of manufacturing jobs, for example. Just look at the former textile communities in the western Piedmont and the foothills, where plants closed and workers who thought they were secure were left without work.

Some have sought retraining. That’s good. But the state has to do its part to help people, through encouragement and assistance to simply providing information, gain more skills and other lines of work. If the waves of recovery are forming, North Carolinians deserve a chance to ride them.

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