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Report: Inequality Persists in NC Communities

A lack of access to public transportation is one factor that can make it difficult for communities of color to access job opportunities, according to a report from Policy Link. (James Willamor/Flickr)
A lack of access to public transportation is one factor that can make it difficult for communities of color to access job opportunities, according to a report from Policy Link. (James Willamor/Flickr)
April 5, 2017

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - North Carolina's unemployment rate continues to fall, but economists remind us that those figures may not apply to all segments of the population.

A new analysis by the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center found disparities between employment opportunities for people of color and their white peers. Alexandra Sirota, director of the center, looked at data from Policy Link, a national research and advocacy organization, and found a correlation between economically disadvantaged citizens and race.

"Many of North Carolina's metro areas are struggling with continued inequality of opportunity," she said, "particularly around employment."

In the Policy Link report, Fayetteville ranked 11th in the country for unemployment among people of color, with a 16 percent jobless rate. By comparison, the city's rate among whites is 9 percent. Both are above the state average of 5.1 percent. Sirota said the state must address factors that contribute to the unemployment disparity, including access to transportation and community-based economic drivers.

Sirota said an effective strategy for targeting racial disparities would be for state and community programs to sponsor workforce development specifically for an area with high unemployment.

"Making investments that create jobs is critical, whether that be through supporting entrepreneurs or attracting and expanding existing businesses in those communities," she said. "Workers in those communities need to have the transportation connections and the opportunities to make sure their families are taken care of."

She said reducing unemployment in specific communities also would help the larger economy overall, through less demand on public services and an increased tax base for the state and federal governments.

The Policy Link report is online at policylink.org and a Budget and Tax Center analysis is at ncjustice.org.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC