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Here’s How To Help Orange County Residents Find Jobs

You can do your part to help local residents at risk of homelessness – by giving them a chance to find work.

Orange County’s Community Empowerment Fund has a Job Partners Program, which offers job training to local residents and connects them with potential employers.

Right now they’re looking for volunteers to serve as Employer Liaisons – working to build relationships with employers and connect graduates of the program with job openings.

If you’re interested in volunteering, there will be a training session on Wednesday, December 10, from 5:30-6:30 pm at the Community Empowerment Fund office at 133 1/2 E. Franklin Street, just east of Columbia Street in downtown Chapel Hill.

For more information, or to sign up, contact the Community Empowerment Fund at 919-200-0233.

http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/heres-help-orange-county-residents-find-jobs/

Big Drop In Local Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate dropped sharply in the Triangle last month, according to numbers released last week by the NC Department of Commerce.

In Orange Count, the unemployment rate dropped from 5.4 percent in August to 4.5 percent in September – almost a full percentage point in a single month. That’s no surprise – the numbers are not seasonally adjusted, and Orange County’s unemployment rate usually goes up in the summer and down again in the fall – but the 4.5 percent rate is also down 0.2 percent from where it was in September of 2013.

Alamance, Chatham, Durham, and Wake Counties also saw big drops in their unemployment rates from August to September – drops ranging from 0.7 percent to 1.1 percent, all in a single month. And all four counties also have lower unemployment rates in 2014 than they did at this time last year; Alamance County’s rate is down more than a full percentage point from September 2013 (down from 7.2 percent last year to 5.9 percent this year).

Read the full report, from the DOC’s Division of Employment Security.

Across the state, Chatham and Currituck Counties are tied with the lowest unemployment rate, 4.2 percent. Graham County has the highest, 12.2 percent.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/big-drop-local-unemployment-rate/

Unemployment Down In NC (But So Is Employment)

North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a point in September, from 6.8 percent in August to 6.7 percent, according to numbers released earlier this week by the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

The number of unemployed North Carolinians dropped by about 4,500 people in September – but that’s not necessarily translating into more jobs. In fact the number of employed North Carolinians also dropped in September, by about 5,600 people.

And North Carolina’s unemployment rate continues to lag behind the national average. In March of this year, the state’s unemployment rate had dropped to 6.3 percent, actually below the national rate of 6.7 – but since then, the national rate has dropped to just below 6 percent, while the state’s rate has slightly increased.

Read the full report from the NC Department of Commerce.

Still, unemployment is much lower in North Carolina now than at this time last year. The state’s unemployment rate in September 2013 was 7.7 percent – a full point higher than it is now.

County-by-county unemployment numbers are due to be released on Wednesday.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/unemployment-nc-employment/

Unemployment Up Slightly In Orange

Orange County’s unemployment rate ticked up again last month, from 5.3 percent in July to 5.4 percent in August.

That’s the latest from the State Department of Commerce. According to numbers released Wednesday, the unemployment rate went up in August in 74 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

County numbers are not seasonally adjusted, so it’s better to compare the unemployment rate from year to year rather than month to month. The August 2014 unemployment rate of 5.4 percent is still lower than it was one year ago, but not by much: in August of 2013, Orange County’s unemployment rate was 5.5 percent.

Orange County has the seventh lowest unemployment rate in the state; Currituck County is tops with a rate of 4 percent, followed by Chatham County at 4.9 percent. (Graham County ranks last with a rate of 13.4 percent.) The overall unemployment rate in the Triangle is 5.7 percent.

Statewide unemployment numbers for September will be released on October 21.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/unemployment-slightly-orange/

UNC Student Project Goes “Whole Hog”

(Image via PoweringANation.org.)

A UNC student-run organization called “Powering A Nation” has unveiled its newest documentary project: “Whole Hog,” an online multimedia exploration of North Carolina’s complex hog industry.

The hog industry is central to the state’s economy, particularly in eastern North Carolina where the tobacco industry is in decline. But it also comes with pitfalls, ranging from the environmental (health issues raised by the spraying of hog waste onto farms as fertilizer) to the economic (the decreasing power of individual small farmers as the industry grows more and more consolidated into fewer and fewer hands).

Available online at WholeHogNC.org, the “Whole Hog” project consists of “written pieces, video stories and graphic design elements” created by six UNC fellows. “Powering A Nation” has been active for six years, creating projects like this that examine various aspects of the energy issue in America – but editor-in-chief Kelly Creedon says this is the first of their projects with a North Carolina-specific focus.

Kelly Creedon, design editor Grayson Mendenhall, managing editor Jess Clark, and graphics editor Bailey Seitter joined Aaron Keck in WCHL studios to discuss the project, a day after its online launch.

You can experience “Whole Hog” for yourself at WholeHogNC.org – and learn more about “Powering A Nation” at PoweringANation.org.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-student-project-goes-whole-hog/

In NC, Did Cutting Benefits Really Cut Unemployment?

CHAPEL HILL – Last year, the General Assembly voted to cut off unemployment benefits for thousands of North Carolinians—and the unemployment rate went down, faster in this state than anywhere else in the country.

But were those two connected—and if so, how?

Republicans say cutting off benefits motivated people to get back on the job market; Democrats say the move actually discouraged people, to the point where they dropped out of the job market altogether.

But Mark Vitner—managing director and senior economist at Wells Fargo—says he’s skeptical all around.

“As with many things in economics,” he says, “if you take the data and twist them the way you want, you can say just about anything.”

Vitner says he doesn’t believe the unemployment rate fell solely because people dropped out of the job market: North Carolina’s labor force did decline in 2013, but the decline was actually faster in the first half of the year, before the state cut off benefits.

Furthermore, Vitner says, “(while) we had the biggest drop in the unemployment rate in the country, we didn’t have the biggest drop in the labor force in the country – not even close to it.”

That suggests North Carolina was, in fact, getting people back to work in 2013, at a faster rate than most other states.

Governor Pat McCrory and other Republicans have touted this as a “Carolina miracle.” But Vitner says not so fast.

“If you’ve been unemployed for long periods of time and you’ve received emergency benefits, odds are you’ve exhausted your savings,” he says. “I think many people, many of those folks, took jobs that they wouldn’t have taken in the past – because they were looking for something to replace the job that they had lost – but now they’ve got a different concern, which is ‘I’ve got to get money in the door’…

“And so part of that increase in leisure and hospitality employment and retail trade that picked up in the second half of the year may have been people saying, ‘well, I’ve got to take something because I’ve got to get money coming in.’ And that’s not a success story.”

Vitner made those comments at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual economic outlook briefing, last week Thursday at the Sheraton Chapel Hill.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/nc-cutting-benefits-really-cut-unemployment/

Gender May Be Key To ACA Impact On Small Biz

How is the Affordable Care Act affecting small business owners in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area?

The answer may depend on the gender of the workers they employ.

That, at least, is the tentative finding of a survey of local business owners conducted by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

When asked how the Affordable Care Act was impacting them, 30.5 percent responded “negatively” or “very negatively,” while 23.9 percent responded “positively” or “very positively.” (The rest—not quite half—were either unaffected or unsure.)

But Chamber president Aaron Nelson says a closer look at the responses reveals something interesting.

“Some of that is about the neutralizing of men and women, (who) cost differently in the old world and cost the same now,” he says. “So if you had a predominantly younger female staff, your rates likely go down – (but) with a predominantly male staff…your rates could go up. So gender has had a real impact on cost.”

Nelson says auto body shops, in particular, have reported their health care costs going up—while the Chamber itself, with a mostly-female staff, has seen its costs decline.

Chamber economic briefing ACA slide

Additional results from the survey are available at www.slideshare.net/carolinachamber/2014-economic-outlook-briefing (also the source of this image). As seen here, there’s only a slight lean towards the ACA having a “negative” effect if severity is not taken into account, but that changes if severity is considered: a far greater percentage of respondents reported a “very negative” effect than a “very positive” effect.

Nelson presented the results of the survey at last week’s annual Economic Outlook Briefing at the Sheraton Chapel Hill.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/gender-may-key-aca-impact-small-biz/

Economist: Next Three Years Will Be Strong

CHAPEL HILL – The national and local economy got off to a slow start this year, but economist Mark Vitner of Wells Fargo says he still expects 2014 to be a strong year overall.

“Most of the numbers that we’re going to see (from February) are likely to be disappointing because the time that those reports are put together, the time period that they reference, is right about the time that we had the big snowstorm,” he said Thursday. “But I think that’s all pretty much a temporary disruption.”

Vitner delivered the keynote address at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Economic Outlook Briefing, Thursday morning at the Sheraton Chapel Hill.

Vitner based his optimism on a number of positive developments—including reduced uncertainty following the federal budget deal; rapid growth in the nation’s energy and tech sectors; and an expected drop in the unemployment rate, down below six percent by the end of the year. He said he expects the improved economy will spur the Fed to raise interest rates sometime in 2015 (though not before).

Even so, Vitner says economic growth will be slower in the future than it has been in the past. Prior to the recession, he says, the U.S. economy grew at an average rate of 3.3 percent per year—but that was sustained in part by heavy debt. Now that credit’s harder to come by, Vitner says growth won’t be quite that fast: he predicts the economy will grow by 2.4 percent in 2014, up about half a point from last year, and by about 3.1 percent in 2015 and 2016.

If that prediction holds, Vitner says we’ll be doing pretty well.

“We think that 2014, 2015 and 2016 will be the three best years of this decade,” he said Thursday.

And with the economy returning to normal, consumer confidence too is up from previous years. But Vitner says people aren’t necessarily feeling more optimistic, just less pessimistic: fewer people say the economy is “bad,” but there’s been no change in the number of people who are ready to say the economy is “good.”

“I kind of sum that out as ‘less bad is good – but more good would be better,'” he quipped. “That’s kind of where the economy is right now.”

Vitner is a Charlotte-based managing director and senior economist for Wells Fargo. More than 100 people were in attendance for his speech on Thursday.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/economist-next-three-years-will-strong/

Rep. Price: Cutting Benefits Doesn’t Cut Unemployment

Across the nation and here in North Carolina, the unemployment rate has been in decline, a fact that has many cautiously optimistic about the economy.

But U.S. Congressman David Price (D) of Chapel Hill says not so fast.

“Has the number of jobs, and people filling jobs, actually increased?” he says. “The answer is no.”

And he says that means federal and state government still has to be active in aiding both the economy and those individuals struggling to find a job.

“We’re still stalled here in this economy – you still have three people seeking (work) for every job that’s available – and so people still need this support system to go after these jobs,” he told WCHL last week, shortly after attending a pair of roundtables on unemployment at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh.

“These folks are really, really wanting to work…(and) I’m hopeful that eventually they’ll succeed, but the notion that you help them by pulling the safety net out from under them is just preposterous.”

At those roundtables, Price met with instructors and students in the school’s Human Resources Development program, which provides career advice and job skills training for students who need it.

“This is a group of people who have good training (and) good job backgrounds,” he says. “The group that I talked to was remarkable in that respect – but yet also remarkable in just not being able to penetrate this job market.”

Price says that’s why he’s currently urging both the federal government and the state government to extend unemployment benefits for those out of work. North Carolina legislators cut unemployment benefits last year, a move that also disqualified the state from receiving federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation as well. And at the federal level, Congress too is currently debating whether to extend unemployment benefits.

Price, along with a majority of Democrats, says it should be done.

“I don’t think there’s any question (about that),” he says. “Never – never – in a period of unemployment this severe have benefits been yanked at this point.”

Republicans in North Carolina point to the state’s declining unemployment rate as evidence that cutting benefits has motivated people to get back to work. But Price says the attendees at last week’s forum said otherwise—and he says the numbers seem to indicate that if anything, cutting benefits has actually motivated people to drop out of the job market altogether.

“The unemployment program requires you to seek work and keeps you plugged in to the employment security system,” he says. “One economist (at the roundtable) who has studied the trends said that the number of people seeking work actually went down when the unemployment benefits were discontinued…

“In other words, far from making people go out and look for a job more diligently, it seemed to have the opposite effect: it just discouraged people and caused them to drop out.”

North Carolina’s labor force shrank in 2013 by about 111,000 workers; about half of that came after the benefit cuts took effect in June. The state only added about 13,000 new jobs in 2013, but it did add more than 41,000 in the second half of the year after a drop from January to June.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/rep-price-cutting-benefits-doesnt-cut-unemployment/

Parking, Water, Beer, Business, And Education!

ORANGE COUNTY – Chapel Hill is adding a new parking lot downtown: on Monday, February 3, the town is opening the Courtyard parking lot, located at 115 South Roberson Street near the west end of Franklin. Town staff say there will be 53 spaces available at the new lot. (There are about 1200 available parking spaces in all in downtown Chapel Hill.)

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Earth Policy Institute founder and president Lester Brown will be on campus Tuesday, February 4, lecturing on the future of agriculture in a world of dwindling water.

The lecture is entitled “Peak Water: What Happens to Our Food Supply When the Wells Go Dry?” It begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium at the FedEx Global Education Center. It’s free and open to the public.

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Starting in April, ARCA will begin assembling CM18 cash recyclers at its manufacturing facility in Mebane, transfering operations from Italy. The move will make the Mebane facility the only one in the U.S. to produce cash recyclers, used by banks and credit unions to speed its balancing and inventory functions.

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Twelve Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School teachers have recently earned National Board Certification: Melissa Nicholson-Clark and Samantha Howard of Morris Grove Elementary; Susan Azzu, Agnes Bernasconi, and Ashley Laver of Rashkis Elementary; Christine Cohn of Estes Hills Elementary; Jennifer Pedersen of Northside Elementary; Lisa Myles of McDougle Elementary; Miles Chappell of Phillips Middle; Beth Kinney of McDougle Middle; Holly Loranger of Chapel Hill High; and Jenny Marie Smith of East Chapel Hill High. Congratulations to all twelve!

North Carolina leads the nation in the number of teachers certified by the National Board.
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Another recognition for UNC: the Princeton Review has ranked UNC-Chapel Hill as the number-one public university in the nation on its 2014 list of America’s “Best Value Colleges.”

UNC has long been recognized as a national leader in preserving affordability and accessibility while simultaneously providing a high-quality education and maintaining high graduation rates.

NC State also made the Princeton Review’s list, as the number-four public university in the nation. Williams College in Massachusetts ranked first among private universities.

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Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are participating in North Carolina’s first official pilot test with school buses filled with propane autogas, an alternative fuel designed to lower gas costs while also reducing toxic emissions.

The North Carolina Propane Gas Association is promoting the new technology in conjunction with Triangle Clean Cities Coalition and Triangle Air Awareness. They say propane autogas can reduce emissions by 80 percent compared to diesel fuel.

Other districts participating in the pilot program include Union, Brunswick, and Nash-Rocky Mount.

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Carolina Brewery is celebrating its 19th birthday with events beginning on Wednesday, February 5 and running through Saturday the 8th–including the debut of a new “Anniversary Ale” and a pint glass giveaway on Friday the 7th.

Visit CarolinaBrewery.com for a full schedule of events.

http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/parking-water-beer-business-education/