NC Unemployment Declines in July

Unemployment in North Carolina fell to 9.8% in July, the News and Record reported today.  The state’s jobless rate had exceeded 10% every month since February 2009.

Earlier in August, the Labor Department reported that national unemployment for July remained unchanged versus the previous month at 9.5%.  A state-by-state analysis shows that jobless rolls declined in 27 states and the District of Columbia, rose in 20 states, and remained unchanged in 3.  But North Carolina was one of only a handful of states which saw a statistically significant change.  Overall, summer unemployment around the country is pretty flat.

Please remember, if you’re jobless Greensboro Public Library would like to help.  You might want to check out our Job and Career Information page.

We’ve also got some good news for job seekers.  Our new Career Counselor, Kim Hailey, just started this week!  We expect Kim to be a great addition to our staff.

Krugman Fears It’s a Depression

Back in the Spring of 2009, in what must have been the darkest days of the financial crisis, we wondered in this blog if we were on the verge of a depression.  I’ve since gotten used to calling this period of economic woe the Great Recession, but now it seems Princeton economist Paul Krugman has decided we’re probably in “the early stages of a third depression” — the first being the “Long Depression” of the 1870s (following the Panic of 1873), the other the “Great Depression” of the 1930s.

You can link to Krugman’s op-ed which appeared in the New York Times earlier this week here.

If you’re interested, here are a few of Greensboro Public Library’s most recent titles on the economic crisis:  On the Brink:  Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System by Henry M. Paulson, Jr.; I.O.U.:  Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay by John Lanchester; The Great Reset:  How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-crash Prosperity by Richard Florida; C risis Economics:  A Crash Course in the Future of Finance by Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm; The Big Short:  Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis; The End of Wall Street by Roger Lowenstein; and Chasing Goldman Sachs:  How the Masters of the Universe Melted Wall Street Down — and Why They’ll Take Us to the Brink Again by Suzanne McGee.

Unemployment Down Again in N.C.

Just a brief note here that North Carolina’s unemployment rate was down for May to 10.3%, the News and Record reported today.

This is the third straight month of declines since February’s 11.2%.  

As for the national picture, the jobless rate dropped to 9.7%, a decline of .2% versus April, but, according to this MSNBC article, this may be attributable to the fact that lots of folks have simply given up looking.

As always, if you’re looking for work, please remember Greensboro Public Library’s job search page.

“Annus Horribilis” for Public Libraries

Some years ago I remember Queen Elizabeth describing a particularly difficult year for the royal family as her annus horribilis.  I don’t know Latin, but the meaning is plain enough, and I think the Queen’s words well describe the kind of year many public libraries are having as they struggle to come to grips with budget cuts.     

Folks around here have heard plenty lately about Greensboro Public Library’s budget woes. 

But there are so many libraries around the country with funding problems this year, especially in our larger cities, some might get the impression that we are dangerously close to an institutional crisis:  i.e., a situation in which the survival of the public library as a vital and enduring part of American life — dedicated to providing unfettered information access to all — is literally at risk.  

Back in March we heard of the dire situation for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library (NC), which had to lay off staff, reduce hours and cut salaries just to get through FY 2009-10.  They now face the prospect of a 45.5% reduction for FY 2010-11 which would necessitate additional layoffs and the closure of sixteen branches.  Their budget, which in FY 2008-09 exceeded $40 million, may be cut to $17.67 million.

New York Public Library is facing a similar dilemma of over $36 million in cuts and may lose over one-third of its staff to layoffs.  As many as ten libraries there may be forced to close, and significant reductions in operating hours seem likely for those which will remain open. 

Dallas Public Library (TX), as this article describes, has gone from a $32 million budget of just a few years ago to the likelihood of being slashed to $13 million for the next fiscal year — if the budget currently proposed for the City of Dallas is approved.   

Even the Board of Trustees of the venerable Boston Public Library was forced to shutter four branches this year in order to close a $3.6 million dollar budget gap

If you care to do a Google search, you can find plenty more examples of libraries in trouble.  

Of course, the budget woes of public libraries have a great deal to do with the recession — no need to go into that here — but the real shame is that the people who need libraries the most during tough times — the unemployed seeking jobs, the “information have-nots,” the families who can’t afford supplemental reading materials and computers for their children — are the folks for whom tough times are the toughest.

The simple fact is that there are no easy answers for libraries.  Faced with shrinking revenues and forced to choose between the essential and the less essential, municipal governments more often than not place public libraries in the latter category.  And it is true that providing access to information is not tangible in the same way as some other governmental obligations, such as public safety (though the ability to search for things like a job or health information can be no less vital). 

However, a good bit of the institutional value of public libraries is really intangible and thus very difficult to measure, which is perhaps all too easy to forget in difficult times like these.  Support for a robust, healthy public library system is not just about the here and now:  it also shows that a community looks to and cares about its future.

By this I mean that institutions like libraries (as well as museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions) exist as public spaces where individuals and groups in a community can acquaint themselves with the ideas which transcend that community.  Public libraries thus offer us the power of knowledge (which I would define here as taking ideas and from them creating new ones), something hugely important to any community which seeks to grow in its understanding, to be dynamic, to quite literally make new community

This is in fact where the public library takes up the role sometimes described as the “people’s university.”  A public library exists not simply as a vehicle for receiving or accessing information, but also as an acknowledgment by a community that it values creativity (its existence is in a sense a civic statement to that effect).  A public library is a repository for general information, traditions, history, yes, but it is also a repository for the raw materials from which new traditions, ideas, art, etc., will come.  And perhaps above all, its perpetuation and preservation as a viable institution ensures everyone has access to those raw materials.

At any rate, I’ve rambled on too long.  I believe public libraries will weather this crisis.  They will likely be transformed in the future, perhaps in ways which we today would find virtually unrecognizable, but in a free society such as ours there will always be an institutional niche for something like a public library.

N.C. Unemployment is Looking a Little Better

Just a brief note that North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell in April to 10.8%, according to today’s News and Record.  This was down from 11.2% in February.

There are also hopeful signs for a downward trend nationally, as MSNBC reported today that April jobless rates declined in 34 of the 50 states.  However, the national rate still remains very high at 9.9%, and it’s expected to be years before we get back even close to full employment.

If you’re out of work and looking for a job, please remember that Greensboro Public Library has plenty of resources which may be of help.  We’ve just recently hired a new job counselor, Ms. Erica Saunders, and you can check out our online resources here.

State Releases County Unemployment Rates for February

The North Carolina Employment Security Commission released its county unemployment data for February today, the News and Record reported.

As you might have guessed, joblessness remains high across North Carolina.  As the chart above indicates, most county unemployment rates in the state fall in the 10.1-14.0% range (59 counties).  Guilford County’s February rate, which was unchanged from January at 11.8%, falls close to the middle of this range.  All regions of North Carolina are well represented in this large group.

However, over one-quarter of the state’s counties (27) have rates over 14.1%, and well over half of these (17) are concentrated in the western mountain and western piedmont sections.  These especially hard-hit counties include:  Alexander (14.5%), Alleghany (15.3%), Ashe (16.2%), Burke (15.6%), Caldwell (17.6%), Catawba (15.3%), Cherokee (16.8%), Cleveland (15.5%), Gaston (14.5%), Graham (19.4%), Lincoln (14.7%), McDowell (16.0%), Mitchell (14.4%), Rutherford (17.9%), Swain (17.6%), Wilkes (14.6%), and Yancey (14.5%). 

Many of these western and western piedmont counties had suffered from declining manufacturing, e.g., textiles, even before the Financial Crisis of 2008, but it is perhaps also significant that none of these counties benefit from the presence of a state university.  In fact, the western piedmont is one of the few contiguous regions in North Carolina which lacks a state university.     

The correlation between the presence of institutions of higher education and low or at least lower unemployment is also evidenced among the fourteen counties which come in with less than 10% jobless rates.  Those counties which have been most resilient to the impact of the recession upon employment include the Research Triangle’s Orange (6.9%), Durham (8.5%), and Wake (9.2%), as well as Buncombe (9.7%) and Watauga (9.4%).  Of course, all of these counties include significant state and/or private universities and colleges.

If you’re out-of-work and looking for a job, please remember Greensboro Public Library’s Job and Career Information page.

February Unemployment in N.C. Rises to 11.2%

The ranks of the jobless in North Carolina continued to rise in February to 11.2%, the News and Record reported today.  This was up .01% from January.

Wake Forest economist Robert Whaples thinks it’s possible the rate worsened because more people are actually looking for work, which could be taken as a hopeful sign.

At any rate, if you’re searching for a job, please remember Greensboro Public Library’s Job and Career Information page.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library System Hit by Major Budget Crisis

Librarians and library patrons across North Carolina have no doubt been stunned by developments in Mecklenburg County this past week, where for a few days it appeared that a huge budget gap would necessitate the closing of half of the County’s public library branches.

The library’s problems originated with a $34.6 million dollar shortfall in Mecklenburg County’s budget for FY 2009-10.  As a consequence, departments throughout Mecklenburg County government were asked to reduce their budgets and the Public Library of Charlotte-Mecklenburg County had to find $2 million in reductions. 

Faced with only grim alternatives, on March 18th Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s board of trustees voted to close twelve of the system’s twenty-four branches effective April 3rd.  Under this proposal, 148 staff would also have been laid off.   

However, following a sustained public outcry — including a fund-raising effort which has now reached almost $250,000 — on Wednesday of this week the trustees rescinded the decision to close the branches.  Instead, they decided to reduce staff salaries 5-20%, lay off fewer staff (82-84), and reduce hours/days of operation and services.  The new hours take effect April 5th. 

The latest plan is nonetheless hardly cause to breathe a sigh of relief, and projections for next year’s budget for Charlotte-Mecklenburg continue to be dire.  According to this article, “the real pain” is coming in the budget for 2010-11 when county officials face the possibility of close to $100 million in cuts to the current $1.4 billion dollar county budget.  As many as 500 county staff may lose their jobs.

Charlotte-Meck’s library system is not the only one in North Carolina with budget woes.  For example, Wake County may have to close their Southeast Regional branch in Garner in order to close a $1.2 budget gap next year.

According to this New York Times article, state and local governments across the country cut 45,000 jobs during January and February, and more layoffs are expected as these governments begin to plan their budgets for the next fiscal year.  

Times are simply tough all around.  And libraries are no exception.

Guilford Unemployment Rises in January

Unemployment was up again in Guilford during January to 11.8%, the News and Record reported today.  That’s an increase of .6% from December. 

The state-wide rate for January was also 11.8% before seasonal adjustments (11.1% with seasonal adjustments).

Believe it or not though, many counties in North Carolina are faring even worse than Guilford.  Among our neighbors, for instance, the jobless rate for January was 13.2% in Alamance, 14.6% in Rockingham, and 12.8% in Randolph.  Forsyth’s was a little better at 10.6%.

These rates do not of course count folks who have given up looking for work or settled for part-time jobs.      

You can examine county jobless rates across the state at the Employment Security Commission’s website.

And if you’re looking for work, please remember Greensboro Public Library’s job links page.

January Unemployment is 11.1% in N.C.

North Carolina’s January unemployment was 11.1%, up from December’s revised 10.9%, the News and Record reported today.

Before the current recession, the State’s previous high was 9.7%, recorded in March 1983.  According to the News and Record, that rate was surpassed in February 2009, and we haven’t dropped below that level since — just more evidence for the severity of the current downturn. 

If you’re job hunting, please remember Greensboro Public Library’s Job and Career Information page.