Tax cuts have failed to reverse North Carolina’s declining employment levels

In 2013, the NC legislature started cutting taxes (mostly for big corporations and wealthy people). Most years since have NC lawmakers continue to divert public funds from things like schools, childcare, broadband, water quality, and public safety, to the pockets of out-of-state corporations and the wealthy few. These cuts also put more of the burden on middle- and low-income taxpayers while letting their richer neighbors off the hook. This post is part of a series bringing light to how tax cuts have failed to deliver promised benefits while undermining our ability to pay for things North Carolinians need.


Tax cuts passed since 2013 have failed to roll back a long-term slide in the share of North Carolinians working.

The past three recessions have slashed employment in North Carolina, and each time the recovery has failed to fully fix the damage. At the turn of the millennium, almost two-thirds of North Carolinians were employed. After the brief economic downturn in 2001, we never got back to that level before the Great Recession starting in 2008 pushed the employment rate down again, ultimately hitting a low point in the mid 50s by 2011. The slow recovery repaired some of the damage, but tax cuts passed during that period never delivered the promised economic punch to push North Carolina back to where we were before that financial crisis.

We’ve also lost ground compared to the national average during the NC tax-cutting regime. North Carolina used to beat the national average level of employment in terms of the percentage of people who were working, but we lost that standing during the Great Recession. Several tax cuts have since 2013 have proven incapable of getting North Carolina back on top.

It’s clear that the experiment of tax cuts has failed to resolve a long-term erosion in the share of North Carolinians who are working, hardly a surprise given how many times state and federal tax cuts have failed to boost job growth.

Reconnecting people to work won’t come from doing the same thing we’ve been doing year after year. Reversing North Carolina’s employment decline means helping workers who need quality child care, safe housing, and reliable transportation. We need to invest in the infrastructure of opportunity instead of diverting public dollars to wealthy people and out-of-state companies.