- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - Gov. Pat McCrory boasted Wednesday about data showing overall wages are going up in North Carolina as he looks ahead to a re-election contest this year that will give him credit for the state’s post-recession economy.

McCrory noted the state’s unemployment rate improved dramatically since he took office in 2013 and is now 5.7 percent, higher than the national unemployment rate of 5 percent. McCrory also highlighted data suggesting households should become more optimistic, pointing out that North Carolina was the only one of the 10 biggest states to see significant increase in personal income in the most recent government estimates.

The “good news is this - that wages have also gone up,” McCrory told an annual gathering of business and industry leaders trying to forecast the state’s economy in 2016. “We’re still in that recovery and there are still people hurting in many parts of the state, but we’ve seen an incredible rebound in the economy of North Carolina.”

Personal income of North Carolina residents grew at one of the country’s fastest rates during the third quarter of 2015, the U.S. Commerce Department reported late last month. Health care was a leading contributor to the state’s overall personal income growth during the period.

While overall wages increased across the country last year, most of the benefits went to technology and other in-demand jobs and left out most other workers, said Gregory Miller, chief economist for SunTrust Bank Inc. in Atlanta.

“Judging from the way job creation has been going this past year, when we’ve shifted over to paying more for some classes of employment,” he said during a panel discussion earlier Wednesday. “I can’t imagine that’s going to change a whole lot.”

McCrory credits measures spearheaded by him and the Republican-led General Assembly to cut corporate and personal income tax rates to attract new companies and spur business activities. State leaders also paid off a debt to the federal government of more than $2 billion borrowed to help keep households above water by keeping unemployment compensation funds flowing. That debt was repaid early thanks to temporary tax increases on employers and permanent benefit cuts for the unemployed, the latter making up two-thirds of the burden for quick repayment.

Another measure of wages showed the pay of North Carolina workers overall increased by 3.9 percent increase between April and June last year compared to 3 percent for the country overall, U.S. Labor Department data showed. That was better than most states, but lagged Democrat-dominated, higher-tax states California and Massachusetts.


Follow Emery P. Dalesio at https://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/emery-p-dalesio

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