I’ve had the opportunity to speak to some of you and you have heard my main issue is the job losses facing our community.

Below is what those job losses look like in chart form:

The chart above was drawn using data available to anyone on the NC Employment Security Commission web site. It only goes back to 1990 but clearly we have returned to job levels of 25+ years ago.

This is average annual employment so the 2011 numbers are not complete and posted.

Also, the annual averages represent a lower than actual total drop in jobs. Our peak employment in June 2000 of 183,837 is 40,041 jobs above where we were this past October when we hit 143,796. And that latest jobs number is 2,749 jobs lower than in October a year ago (please forgive me if I round that to 3000 when speaking).

You may wonder why I am talking about jobs when the news always talks about the unemployment rate.

Jobs tell us how many people are actually working. Jobs drive the local economy. Everything from retail sales to the value of your home to local tax revenues depend on a healthy jobs environment.

The unemployment percentage is a little different. The unemployment rate is a comparison of the total Labor Force compared to those unemployed folks that are looking for work. The thing is, if everyone that didn’t have a job suddenly stopped looking, you might read in the paper that unemployment was zero, but it would not be a good thing.

So, jobs, not the unemployment rate is what we need to pay attention to.

I am not telling you this to depress you. I am sharing this because knowledge is power.

Before we can correct a problem, we must understand, define and clarify that problem.

I look forward to continuing our conversation and I need your help and support.

Some positive thoughts on our area

On a more positive note…

Hickory and the surrounding area is blessed with an abundance of gifts. While we are less than an hour from the Charlotte airport and situated at the crossroads of I-40 and US Highway 321, we are minutes away from incredible natural beauty.

Unlike many areas of the region, we have an abundance of clean water. That is both an opportunity and a responsibility. We need leaders that understand the benefits of promoting that water resource while protecting its quality and defending it from those water-short areas that will take our water for their own purposes if it is possible.

We have considerable room for business expansion capability in our highway, water, sewer and electric infrastructure.

We have a labor force that is both skilled and willing to work.

The total of those assets make us unique and there is no reason we shouldn’t thrive.

What we need is aggressive leadership that will turn those assets into jobs.

Car Inspections

My wife looked up at me last Thursday and asked, “Why is it you think the North Carolina Legislature is capable of passing major tax reform when they cannot even pass a bill to eliminate unnecessary safety inspections of new cars?”

We were having breakfast and reading about how a legislative committee had, the previous day, killed a bill to end annual safety inspections for new cars less than three years-old cars likely still under the manufacturer’s warranty and for which there are no data indicating any safety hazard.

The spokesman for that legislative committee pontificated, in effect, on how these inspections were a necessary jobs bill for the inspection garages. Based on news reports, no one in the legislature disagreed. It was only the media that later talked about the unnecessary expense and waste of time for the average citizen.

Now I am all for jobs. But we don’t create jobs or a vibrant economy when the government starts picking winners and losers by forcing some people to spend their money so that other folks can make more money.

I’m with the media on this one. It’s not so much about cars as it is doing the right thing just because it is the right thing. If our leaders can’t figure out how to do the right thing on the simple issues, how do we ever hope to handle the hard issues?

There are many complex issues facing our government. Many of them are and should be about creating jobs and growing the economy. It is my belief that a priority should be restructuring our state tax system to take out the very things, like car inspections, that get in the way of job creation and growing our economy.

The boost tax reform would give our ailing economy is obvious. But, as my wife pointed out, eliminating unnecessary car inspections seemed pretty obvious too – and one special interest stopped it dead in its tracks.