[Editor’s note: The North Carolina Budget and Tax Center released the “State of Working North Carolina 2016”  today and, as in recent years, the story it tells about the North Carolina economy is not an especially pretty one. The following is from the release that accompanied the report.]
Hard work is supposed to provide the income to allow people to get by and set their children up for future success. North Carolina policymakers have violated that promise, both with their policy choices that make it more difficult for North Carolinians to connect to good jobs and with their failure to enact the policies that make sure work translates into greater economic security.
The national economic recovery began in 2009, but it has yet to reach North Carolinians across the state. Too many workers have failed to find work or left the labor market for lack of jobs in their community. Far too many who are working find their wages falling short of what it takes to make ends meet and otherwise contribute to their communities’ improvement.
The precarious state of working North Carolina in the so-called “Carolina Comeback” is a result of policymakers’ failure to embrace the current reality: We need a policy response to address a number of long-term trends, including:
- The economic transformation away from manufacturing and towards a service economy;
- The changing nature of work and relationships between workers and employers; and
- Demographic shifts in the workforce.
State policy choices have instead prioritized trickle-down economics over common sense, which makes North Carolina workers’ struggle for economic well-being even greater in the current context.
Our 2016 analysis of the State of Working North Carolina  demonstrates clear evidence that contradicts the trumpeting of a “Carolina Comeback” —and shows that low taxes, low regulation and lax labor standards largely do not lead to better economic outcomes nor address the challenges facing North Carolina. The following pages detail critical ways in which overall economic growth, jobs, and the changing nature of industry opportunities are falling short of what our economy, our communities and our people need to thrive.
While North Carolina has benefited somewhat from the national economic expansion, the state has not done enough to make sure this period of economic expansion reaches every North Carolinian and every community.
Workers across the state and from diverse backgrounds are at a disadvantage relative to their peers across the country and in the South — even relative to the generations of North Carolina workers before them — because of bad policy choices. Policymakers have chosen to shrink investments in institutions that have built bridges to new careers and protected workers from poverty, and to reduce the standards and guidelines that make it possible for businesses to compete, new markets to expand and workers to thrive. These choices hurt all North Carolinians.