In recent years , North Carolina workers have suffered setbacks - the number of middle paying jobs has declined and so has per capita income.

Nationally and statewide in North Carolina, higher paying jobs and lower paying jobs have grown much faster than middle paying jobs. More importantly, in Transylvania, Henderson and Polk counties, middle paying jobs have actually declined by 17% to 25%. Working class families in our area don’t have to be told that statistic, they are living it. Pay has declined to levels not seen since the early 1980s.

North Carolina has seen growth in higher paying jobs in urban areas in the financial, technology and science fields. This growth has prompted the lower paying service sector to add jobs. As the manufacturing sector struggled to compete in a global economy, companies automated their operations further reducing the number of middle paying jobs. Many displaced workers moved into those lower paying service jobs.

These changes in the makeup of the job market have hit western North Carolina particularly hard. Many displaced workers did not seek retraining. As a result, companies are finding it difficult to find employees with the skills required in the remaining jobs. Most economists see this trend continuing in North Carolina with automation and technology increasingly being used to compete.

Now is the time to invest...

The solution is a better educated and more nimble workforce. This requires North Carolina to invest in our public schools and community colleges - not cut their funding. By investing in our schools and by allowing schools more flexibility, we can adapt to the new realities in our changing job markets and meet the challenges of the 21st Century. It is time for you to have a strong voice representing the mountains.