Weâ€™re not sure whether it was an inadvertent mistake or a Freudian slip, but Fridayâ€™s headline error in the Lincoln Times-News, referencing an â€œUnemployment Security Commission,â€ appears to have come pretty close to the mark.
Jobless North Carolina residents logging on to the N.C. ESC Web site to file for benefits this weekend were greeted with depressing news the agency had released on Friday:
Months after the national recession ended, unemployment in North Carolina is increasing. The jobless rate in June climbed in 91 of North Carolinaâ€™s 100 counties, according the ESC. Statewide unemployment officially stands at 10.4 percent, although many workers have undoubtedly given up hope and fallen off the labor force totals, keeping the statistics artificially low.
In Lincoln County, the situation is even worse. Juneâ€™s jobless rate locally was 11.5 percent. Thatâ€™s 4,354 people who need jobs in Lincoln County.
Our level of unemployment had been falling gradually. In June 2010, the Lincoln County rate was 12.6 percent. By May, that had fallen to a still awful level of 11.0 percent. But the big jump in joblessness for June gave back a third of what weâ€™d gained over the course of a year. Unemployment in Lincoln County seems more secure than ever. That goes for 90 other counties as well.
ESC Chairman Lynn R. Holmes offered her assessment of whatâ€™s wrong as the monthly report was released: â€œWhat we are seeing in most metropolitan areas across North Carolina is a loss in government employment. This is partially attributed to changes in local and state education at the end of the school year.â€
Thatâ€™s not entirely wrong, but it completely misses the point. Chairman, what you are seeing in most areas of North Carolina is the failure of the governor and her appointees to do squat to create conditions for growth in the non-governmental sector of the job market. A healthy private-sector employment situation could also have helped avoid those tragic school layoffs across the state through increased state income tax revenues and more consumer spending to increase sales tax revenues â€“ something far more effective in improving the stateâ€™s budget than sustained high rates of taxation.
Anyone who heard Gov. Bev Perdue or her mouthpieces during their visits to Lincoln County for recent economic development announcements understood just how misguided their economic policy is. We need at least 2,000 jobs right away to get back to a normal level of joblessness. Instead the politicians and figureheads travel to Lincoln County â€” not at Perdueâ€™s re-election campaignâ€™s expense as they should, but on the taxpayersâ€™ dime â€” to tell us what a favor they are doing by bringing in a trickle of jobs and ensuring that large facilities will be built to increase the tax base.
To be certain, we are extremely happy that companies like Hydac and Aptar are coming to Lincoln County to eventually add a few high-paying jobs and enlarge the tax base. But thatâ€™s just not enough. Also, much of the credit for bringing them here belongs to our local economic development team, rather than to anyone in Raleigh. As glad as we are to see any progress, these jobs are relatively limited in number and wonâ€™t be available for quite a while longer, even though the need for them is immediate and urgent.
A healthier atmosphere for small businesses would do far more and to stimulate job growth.
The governorâ€™s attitude toward economic development was betrayed earlier this year in a power struggle with the General Assembly when she refused to relinquish her centralized control over the economic incentives used to lure businesses to the state. Itâ€™s all game in which Perdue expects to personally take credit for bringing these few jobs to troubled areas of the state so that she can reap some imagined political advantage. Sheâ€™ll likely find that fleeting in a county like Lincoln that didnâ€™t send many votes her way the first time around and hasnâ€™t exactly prospered under her administration.
As for the ESC, theyâ€™ve been cutting the hours of employees in local county offices. These are the hardworking front-line public servants who interact with our thousands of job-seeking citizens on a daily basis. Itâ€™s been left to the local offices to straighten out the chaos and allay fears of lost unemployment benefits when the hapless folks running the ESC in Raleigh repeatedly send out expensive mailings and automatic Internet bursts with incorrect and often alarming information.
The failed, self-serving policies of Perdue, Holmes and other high-ranking state government executives are the problem in North Carolina. The best chance for an improvement in our employment situation may be to secure their unemployment. Unfortunately, we wonâ€™t have that opportunity until 2012.