If things are so good, why is everybody so mad?
Published June 20, 2019
By Tom Campbell
A friend recently posited the question, “If things are so good, why is everybody so mad?” At first, I chuckled, later realizing his premise made two assumptions worth pondering. The first is are things really so good? And is everyone mad?
We don’t need reminding that North Carolina was severely impacted by The Great Recession of 2007-09. Dr. Mike Walden, who publishes the NC State University Index of Leading Economic Indicators, graphically shows that starting in August 2009 our state’s economy began a slow but sustained recovery that lasted until September of 2018, when Hurricane Florence devastated much of our state. Earlier this month the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the May Jobs Report, showing nonfarm payroll employment grew in our state by 75,000, much lower than the anticipated growth of 175,000 jobs. Currently our unemployment rate is 4 percent, dramatically lower than during the recession, but higher than the national average of 3.6 percent. Our hourly wage also lags the national average by some $5, at $22.69 per hour.
The economic picture varies depending on where you live. In urban areas, like Raleigh and Charlotte, great optimism is evident. The Raleigh-Cary metro jobless rate is 3.1 percent, down from 3.9 percent in January. The management firm Manpower just released a survey saying that 24 percent of employers in these markets are looking to add workers in coming months; their biggest drawback is finding skilled workers. This news is sure to spur more migration to urban centers, both from out of state and also from our rural counties. But in rural areas, pessimism and discouragement are more prevalent.
Walden cites the rapidly changing job market as further reason for concern. This includes the ratcheting up of educational requirements, the disappearance of many middle-income jobs and the emergence of technology as a potential replacement for a variety of occupations.
Succinctly put, there are uncertainties in our economy. Where there is uncertainty, there is fear and fear breeds anger.
Overlay today’s political climate and we see that anger being played out between liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats. Maybe the causes are not the 24-7 cable news shows or the free-wheeling social media sites, but respect, understanding, compromise and cooperation are words increasingly foreign to us.
Too often we see that anger, just below the surface, evidencing itself at the checkout line, with servers in restaurants, on our roadways and in any number of situations. And unlike times gone by, when that anger surfaces people now feel entitled to say anything to anyone at any time, using any words they like.
After reflecting on my friend’s question, I think it can be said that for many things are bright skies and happy times and, while there is no study reflecting what percentage of our state’s population that might be, my guess is that percentage might twenty percent or less. Skies are variably cloudy for the rest, most especially middle-income families who have lost jobs or haven’t enjoyed much wage growth for years.
Upon reflection, it is untrue to make a universal statement that things are so good, but equally it fallacious to say everybody is so mad. A more accurate assessment is that we’ve got work to do!