Report: Recession isn’t over for many NC workers

North Carolina needs to add nearly one-half million jobs to return to the level of prosperity the state enjoyed before the recession wreaked havoc with the economy, according to a new report released Sunday.

In order to have the same ratio of jobs to total population that prevailed before the recession, the state would have to add 470,000 new jobs, according to the report from the N.C. Justice Center, an advocacy group for the poor. The center’s calculation accounts for population growth.

“At the current annual rate of job creation, it will take five years for North Carolina to close that gap,” the report states.

“We continue to experience an uneven recovery that is challenged by a persistent job deficit and, at the same time, an overwhelming growth in low-wage occupations,” said Alexandra Sirota, director of the organization’s Budget & Tax Center.

Those trends, she added, “make it more difficult for workers and their families to achieve economic security, which in turn really hampers our state’s economy from achieving a full recovery.”

The center’s annual report about the economic well-being of the state’s workers , which was issued a day before Labor Day, contrasts starkly with the picture painted by Republican state lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory. They hail the precipitous decline in the state’s unemployment rate as proof of the efficacy of new laws they championed, such as lowering corporate and personal income taxes and overhauling the state’s unemployment benefits system.

The state’s unemployment rate stood at 6.5 percent in July, down from 8.1 percent a year ago.

Critics, including the Justice Center, argue that the unemployment rate is artificially low because people who are so discouraged that they give up looking for work aren’t counted as being jobless by government statisticians.

The report also states:

• More than 40 percent of unemployed workers in North Carolina have been out of work at least 26 weeks. That is the worst since 1970 and more than twice the pre-recession level.

• Nearly six of 10 new jobs offer low wages “that keep workers trapped in poverty despite working full-time.”

• 12.8 percent of working North Carolina families “earn poverty-level wages, which is $23,850 for a family of four. On this indicator, the state ranks marginally better than Alabama and worse than South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee.”

• Unemployment among North Carolinians between the ages of 16 and 24 rose from 10.3 percent in 2007 to 19.4 percent last year. A quarter of those in this age group who work part-time jobs want to be working full-time.

• The economic landscape is bleakest in rural communities. Employment in rural areas has fallen 2.7 percent since the economy started to recover from the recession in 2009.