"Carolina Comeback" Falls Far Short of the Mark
In an op-ed in the News and Observer, economic policy expert John Quinterno details how the so-called "Carolina Comeback" is backed up by the economic reality for most North Carolinians. He writes about how median income has fallen, even during the economic recovery, showing that while some at the top are thriving, most working class folks in our state are still struggling.
During North Carolina’s recovery from the “Great Recession,” political observers have focused myopically on one economic indicator: the unemployment rate. Recent declines in that rate have led those commentators to celebrate a “Carolina Comeback.” That claim, while alliterative, is too simplistic to describe the health of the economy, and it overlooks an even more alarming trend – the steady decline in household income and, by extension, living standards. Judged against the criteria of rising incomes and improving well-being, North Carolina’s comeback is far short of the mark.
Households across North Carolina depend on the monies earned through work for most of their annual incomes, meaning that their well-being is intertwined with the labor market. Tight labor markets provide opportunities for jobless individuals to work and for employed persons to obtain raises or to find better jobs. But since the onset of the Great Recession, North Carolinians have suffered a labor market characterized by anemic job growth, high rates of joblessness and stagnant wages.
Since 2007, the inflation-adjusted income of the typical North Carolina household has dropped by more than 8 percent. No one would be surprised to learn that household incomes fell during the contraction phase of the Great Recession, but what is surprising is the extent to which household incomes have fallen during the recovery that began in 2009.