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
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.
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.
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.
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).