May 29, 2024 6:28 am
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North Carolina Persevering Despite Inflation

Credit: iStock

Reinette LeJeune

With inflation steadily ramping up its pressure on state residents, many citizens are now re-tightening their wallets once again in preparation for the uncertain future. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the month of October 2022, the south saw an increase in new business formations by 1.6 percent. A total of 31,889 new startup businesses were reported across the nation for the month, with 12,774 of those businesses being started in our corner of the south. Our state also saw an explosion of entrepreneurs and business owners beginning new ventures, with more than 171,355 new applications being submitted. Additional state data has not yet been released.

North Carolina is home to 964,280 small businesses, with 1.7 million small business employees, representing 45.1 percent of North Carolina workers. 99.6 percent of the state’s businesses are defined as small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. From September 2021 to September 2022, the unemployment rate for the state dropped from 4.5 percent to 3.6 percent, just 0.1 percent lower than the national average. 

According to a report written by Dr. Michael Walden, a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University, who analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of April 2022, the state of North Carolina has recovered 102% of the jobs since February 2020. Despite these averaged numbers, however, some areas like Winston-Salem, New Bern, Greenville, Greensboro-High Point, Goldsboro, and Rocky Mount have not yet recovered to pre-pandemic employment levels. “The biggest challenges for North Carolina in future decades – indeed, the biggest challenges for most states – will relate to the labor market,” the report reads.  “One challenge will be monitoring the changing skill needs of the workforce as the future economy evolves at a faster pace than in the past.” The report predicts that by 2050, North Carolina’s population is expected to increase from 10.5 million to 13.8 million. 

Governor Roy Cooper recently announced that the North Carolina Department of Commerce awarded 20 special grants to 11 local workforce development boards, totaling $8.45 million. The individual boards will use the grants to help jobseekers and small businesses with training and other services in response to a tight labor market, including programs for individuals who are in the reentry process and individuals with or at risk of substance abuse. “In today’s changing economy, we must help more North Carolinians overcome barriers to entering the workforce, particularly individuals reentering after incarceration, while also helping our employers train workers with the skills they need,” Governor Cooper said. “These grants will provide new opportunities for communities to fill good jobs and put more money in the pockets of hard-working North Carolinians.” The source of funding for all these grants is a component of the American Rescue Plan Act, the State Fiscal Recovery Fund (SFRF), which provides $5.4 billion to North Carolina to help turn the tide on the pandemic, address its economic fallout, and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable recovery.

Biden administration touts NC investments to kick off “Infrastructure Week”

The Biden administration’s significant infrastructure investments are transforming North Carolina, highlighted by projects such as the $110 million replacement of the Alligator River Bridge and the $1 billion high-speed rail line connecting Raleigh to Richmond. However, with only 17% of the allocated $1.1 trillion spent to date, the administration faces challenges in demonstrating these impacts to voters before the upcoming November election.

Raleigh City Council approves $5 million for new pilot program to address homelessness

The Raleigh City Council has approved a $5 million pilot program to provide direct rent assistance to unsheltered individuals. The “Unsheltered Homelessness Response Program” allocates $1.9 million for direct subsidies to help individuals move into permanent housing and $2 million to expand housing options, including repairs to city-owned rental units and affordable housing.

Development pressures, higher taxes threaten to displace Black homeowners in SE Raleigh

On a sunny spring afternoon, a predominantly Black crowd gathered at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh to learn about appealing their property taxes, which have soared due to rising property values. With property values in Wake County increasing by 56% from 2020 to 2024, many long-time residents on fixed incomes are struggling to keep up with the higher taxes, leading to widespread concerns about systemic inequities and displacement in historically Black neighborhoods.