|‘New poor’ ranks grows in N.C.|
|Concentrations heaviest in urban regions|
|Published Wednesday, April 11, 2012 2:17 pm|
STATESVILLE – Like thousands of people in North Carolina, Russell Brown never expected to be facing poverty or losing his home.
A single father, Brown had a good job and bought his first house in March of 2009. Six months later, he was laid off, and for the first time in his life Brown found himself asking for help.
“It was a very humbling experience,” Brown said. “When you’ve been a person that’s been independent all your life and you never really had to ask for help, and for me, I really didn’t know where to go, ‘cause I’ve never been in that position before.”
The increase in “newly poor” North Carolinians contributes to the fact that areas of concentrated poverty have more than doubled since 2000 in the state. Researchers say that areas of the state where entire communities are facing poverty present additional challenges in the form of demand for services and increased competition for jobs.
“For folks who have worked their entire life to suddenly face a labor market, where there just aren’t enough jobs out there for the people who want to work, is demoralizing,” said Alexandra Sirota, director of the Budget and Tax Center, which recently published data from the U.S. Census about the increase in areas of concentrated poverty. The center identified 100 areas of concentrated poverty in the state located in 30 100 counties, with the largest share located in Guilford and Mecklenburg.
Unemployment in urban regions has dropped significantly over the last year. The Charlotte region’s jobless rate fell from 11.9 percent in February 2011 to 10.7 percent in 2012 – the greatest improvement in the state – while the Triad’s dropped by 1.1 points, and the Triangle fell 0.4 points.
“We are seeing good news in North Carolina’s local labor markets, but our most populous regions are clearly doing the best,” said Allan Freyer, a Budget & Tax Center policy analyst. “The Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte regions are experiencing significantly lower unemployment rates than the rest of the state. Perhaps even more importantly, the metros in these three regions alone account for 92 percent of the total private sector job growth in North Carolina’s metro areas since February 2011.”
The rest of the state had significantly smaller drops since February with the Northeast falling by 0.2 points, the East by 0.4 points, and the Southeast by 0.3. Although western N.C. has higher overall unemployment, its jobless rate fell 0.5 points from 13 percent to 12.5 in the past year.
Herbert L. White of The Charlotte Post contributed to this report.
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