Despite the rhetoric in Raleigh, there has been little accomplished as it pertains to generating job growth and furthering economic opportunity in the rural areas of North Carolina. Most of rural North Carolina consistently ranks near or at the bottom in employment and economic opportunity rankings.
Most of the talk has centered on the need to get the rural areas employment numbers more in line with state unemployment figures since the now supercharged areas of Raleigh and Charlotte are consistently outperforming other areas and states in the US. Well, let’s take a look at the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to so eloquently wax.
The unemployment rate in the urban centers of the state seems to hover around 4.5-6.5% of the total workforce that is actively seeking employment. This does not include approximately 4-5% of the workforce that are no longer receiving benefits or have stopped actively looking for work. If you look at the most recent figures for Columbus, Bladen and Robeson Counties you will understand why the figures that are published related to unemployment don’t accurately depict the dire economic situation in our rural communities.
The unemployment rates in Columbus, Robeson, and Bladen counties are all between 8 and 9 percent. Robeson County has the highest unemployment rate of the three at 8.7%. These are all significantly higher than the state unemployment rate of 5.5%. While the unemployment rate has fallen in these areas, it’s not clear that the economic picture has positively improved.
There are 1,400 fewer people employed in Columbus County since 2013, and 2,175 residents have left the labor force. In Robeson County, there are 4,667 fewer residents in the labor force and 2,842 fewer people employed than in 2013. Bladen County has similarly seen a decrease in labor force participation and virtually no job growth.
It’s time to admit a brutal fact, rural North Carolina is not seeing the economic recovery that Charlotte and Raleigh are experiencing.
The “Carolina Comeback” we’ve heard so much about is unimpressive at best when you consider that 60 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have not fully recovered from the recession. In 15 of those counties, all rural, employment is 10% lower than it was prior to the 2007 recession. In over 75% of North Carolina counties, employment has not kept up with population growth.
With dire economic numbers like these facing rural North Carolina, it’s easy to understand why voters in the Southeastern part of the state wonder why the Legislature is so focused on divisive social issues – when we should be debating plans to create new jobs, ensure we have economic growth, that we can expand beyond agribusiness and provide real opportunities for rural North Carolina.
Leaders in Raleigh need to get serious about advancing a pro-growth agenda for rural North Carolina. The time is now. Rural North Carolina is depending on it.
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Community colleges in the depressed areas could offer free training for the unemployed in healthcare, technology, airplane maintenance/airport management, renewable energy (rehab, etc.), or whatever would help lure businesses to these areas. Focus on private/public collaboration to make this happen. I don’t care for the idea of direct incentive$ for already profitable businesses unless incentive$ would benefit the common good in a significant way (i.e. renewable energy investment to address climate change). What about locating solar energy producers in these areas? The sun shines everywhere. Let’s invest money directly in training our unemployed citizens, infrastructure, and schools to help these depressed areas.
The Transportation Plan, whatever it is may keep all this as it is unless it is comprehensive. “You can’t get there from here.” is what my brother used to tell strangers in Elon with northern plates.
I am afraid that the Transportation Plan might defer to the East Coast Military Complex and deny its benefits to the civilians that are taxed to pay for the army.
Another issue is that I wonder why a Bond is required? Taxes are supposed to pay for these sorts of things. The Bond issuance means instead of the rich paying taxes they get more money, it being a loan.
I will never forgive McCrory for saying “We just corrected the calendar.” It is a fundamental attack on voters and the citizens voting rights, and replicates Democratic tactics aimed to disenfranchise struggling labor after the Wilmington Coup.
The airport is the only best hope of these rural landlocked out of the way communities. GTI trains and graduates fine Aviation professionals capable of running well the 27 new airports needed.
You must make it possible for people to get to you within 4 hours no matter where you are.
Intendor to the Democratic US Senate nomination. Russell Scott Day Transcendian on youtube. Vice Chair Town Hall Precinct Carrboro. http://transcendia.org/wordpress
“Another issue is that I wonder why a Bond is required?”
The answer to that speaks for itself.
Thanks. Perhaps few people care but those of us connected to eastern and southeastern North Carolina do. Keep writing and expressing your thoughts including the unfortunate reality.
Hang in there and we’ll get this ship turned.