Economic “snapshot” of Buncombe: low unemployment, low wages, high cost-of-living

The North Carolina Justice Center has released economic snapshots for the last two years for many of the state’s counties. Buncombe’s reveals lower-than-average unemployment but a tough rental market, below-average wages and high cost-of-living.

The center, a non-profit advocacy group for low-income residents, produced the snapshots, including data on unemployment, housing and the cost of basic necessities for working families, for every county in the state with a population over 20,000.

The data for Buncombe shows unemployment far lower than the state average in both December 2009 and 2010. The county poverty rate, at 16.2 percent, is exactly the same as the state average.

Meanwhile, 45 percent of renters were unable to afford a two-bedroom unit at fair market rates, relatively high for the state (by comparison, in Wake and Mecklenberg counties, 40 percent of renters had the same problem). More Buncombe County residents (18.3 percent) lacked health insurance than the state average (15.9 percent). Almost a quarter of residents (24.1 percent) were low-income as of 2009. Wages were nine percent below the state average, and the median income was also below average ($40,979 versus $43,754).

When it came to cost of living, a single adult working to support two children has to make $18.72 to afford basic living expenses. Two adults working to support two children need to make a combined $21.76 an hour to do the same, according to the center’s data.

Full “snapshot” for Buncombe County below.

— David Forbes, senior news reporter

UNEMPLOYMENT

Buncombe County’s unemployment rate was 8.5% in December 2009; the state rate was 11.1%. In December 2010, the county unemployment rate was 7.6%; the state rate was 9.7 %.

118,190 workers were a part of Buncombe County’s labor force in December 2010.

Since the Third Quarter of 2010, Buncombe County lost 6,140 jobs on net, a 5% decline.

POVERTY

16.2% of Buncombe County residents (36,407 people) lived in poverty in 2009; the state rate was 16.2%.

24.1% of Buncombe County residents were low-income in 2009, meaning their incomes were less than twice the federal poverty level ($44,100 for a family of four in 2009).

WAGES & INCOME

In 2010, the Buncombe County’s average weekly wage of $698 equaled 91% of the statewide wage of $768.

Median household income in the county was $40,979, which equaled 94% of the statewide household income of $43,754.

The richest 5% of Buncombe County households had an average income that was 26.3 times greater than that of the poorest fifth of households and 3.1 times greater than that of the middle fifth of households.

HOUSING

45% of renters were unable to afford the fair market rent for a 2 bedroom housing unit.

There were 1393 foreclosure filings in 2010 representing 1 in 45 housing units in Buncombe County.

HEALTH

18.3 % of Buncombe County residents did not have health insurance in 2008-2009, compared to 15.9% of all North Carolinians.

10.4% of children in Buncombe County did not have health insurance in 2008-2009.

35,889 were eligible for Medicaid in Buncombe County in December 2010, a 14.8% increase.

SUPPORTS FOR WORKING FAMILIES

From December 2007 to August 2009, $107,824,404 have circulated in Buncombe County through unemployment insurance benefits.

In 2009, the state EITC provided refunds of $1,067,779 to working families in Buncombe County.

In December 2009, 29,978 Buncombe County residents received assistance from the food and nutrition or food stamp program. In December 2010, the number increased by 22.5% to 36,732 and the share of residents receiving assistance reached 15.8%.

THE 2010 LIVING INCOME STANDARD

A working family in Buncombe County with 1 adult and 2 children needs to earn, on average, a total of $38,943 annually to afford basic living expenses in the county. This total is 212.7% of the 2009 federal poverty level for a family of three ($18,310).

o The county’s living income standard for this family requires an hourly wage of $18.72, which is $11.47 more than the $7.25 per hour earned in a minimum wage job ($15,080 annually).

A working family in Buncombe County with 2 adults and 2 children needs to earn, on average, a total of $45,262 annually to afford basic living expenses in the county. This total is 205.3% of the 2008 federal poverty level for a family of four ($21,200).

o The county’s living income standard for this family requires them to earn a combined hourly wage of $21.76, which is $7.26 more than the $14.50 per hour earned through working two minimum wage jobs ($30,160 annually).

SHARE

20 thoughts on “Economic “snapshot” of Buncombe: low unemployment, low wages, high cost-of-living

  1. J

    Always beware of averages.

    The average apartment/condo in downtown Asheville is always going to cost more than the average house in Jupiter.

    A more useful statistic would be county statistics vs. city stats – but such honesty would make it harder to push for a density-affordable housing agenda.

  2. “When it came to cost of living, a single adult working to support two children has to make $18.72 to afford basic living expenses. Two adults working to support two children need to make a combined $21.76 an hour to do the same, according to the center’s data.”

    And yet, to hear some people say it, a living wage is – at best – $11.35 an hour.

  3. A more useful statistic would be county statistics vs. city stats – but such honesty would make it harder to push for a density-affordable housing agenda.

  4. jenny

    It is hard to make a living here. Everyone I know makes about $8 – $10.00 and hour, and that is good pay. This is among people in their mid to late 30’s. I think a good wage here in Asheville would be $20.00/hr. but who would pay that? Even with college degrees I cannot find a part-time job that pays $8.-/hr. It is quite sad and very scary. I am unsure of what the future of Asheville holds for me but I do not have much hope for it to get better. With a huge lack of manufacturing in the area or jobs that offer long-term security it is hard to make a living. Nursing jobs offer this but not everyone wants to be a nurse. It is a depressing job. You are in line to just start school for that here. Teaching is also a pretty good job but is that not secure anymore and does not pay that well.

  5. FionaJacob

    The problem with averages is that you have the wealthy and the poor. Today there really isn’t much of an in-between range.
    To me, making $40,000.00 means you are rich in this area. I’ve never made more than $20,000.00 a year in Asheville, and that was in a professional position. Right now I make about 10,000.- a year.

  6. LOKEL

    This study is considered news?
    Many of us have known this for some time (not the specific numbers but the general idea).

    I laugh when I read about efforts to bring more affordable housing to the “Central Business District” … and then the rent(s) are outrageous.

    A 1BR in a “flop house” with a shared bath is currently going for $650 …

  7. dpewen

    $40K is rich? Seriously? I would not consider that a living wage.

  8. dpewen

    Wow! Sure glad I don’t have to work for $40K … that is a month for me.

  9. Zanna

    My math is very bad, but lets see what I can make out of this. If 24% of Buncombe residents are low income, and a further 16% below federal poverty, that’s about 91378 people or about 39% of a population of 229,047. But it says here that 45% of residents here are unable to afford rent on a two bedroom unit at fair market prices. That leaves about 11693 people who are not considered poor or even low income, actual middle class, who still cannot afford to rent a two bedroom home without taking on additional roomates.

    I should know, our family is in the $40K range now, and here we sit in a 700 square foot shack from the 1930s because it’s the only thing we can afford in town. We’ve wanted to move desperately but can’t find any place within 50 miles that rents for a price comparable to where we are now. If I were to pay any more in rent I would have to give up my dream of having health insurance. It really is either-or, live in a shack or do without basic healthcare. And we are relatively well off here. What does it take?

  10. dpewen

    What is Freedonworks? I am retired and live off software royalties … good gig!

  11. bearsnotyuppies

    40k? Seriously!? I don’t know anybody that makes anything near that!

    With a situation like this, what working person thinks capitalism is still a good idea? Really? And if so why?

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.