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OUR VIEW: Not all jobs are equal

Two conflicting economic data points in the news this week showed that not all jobs are created equal.

Kevin Robinson, the director of planning and development services for the city of Albemarle, presented a report to city council that showed an estimated 325 new jobs were created in the city in 2018. That was a 21 percent increase over the 268 new jobs created in 2017.

Good news, right? For a city that has seen more than its fair share of jobs move out of town over the past couple decades, any job created is most welcome and should be celebrated.

But then the 2018 Community Health Assessment Report told a different story. In that survey of more than 800 Stanly County residents, almost 30 percent of those polled listed unemployment or underemployment as a major community issue. Another 28 percent listed the lack of health insurance, which is also related to the lack of full-time employment, as the second biggest issue.

In a county where the unemployment stood at a low 3.5 percent at the end of 2018, concerns of joblessness seem odd when the stats show only a few more than a 1,000 people are looking for work in a total labor pool of less than 30,000.

It seems underemployment may be a much larger concern for the area than unemployment, especially when you consider the jobs Robinson listed as making up that 21 percent improvement. Of the 325 new jobs, 56 came from small retail stores and 83 jobs came from new restaurants. It’s probably a safe bet that most of those jobs are not full-time and probably do not meet the area’s median annual household income of $44,000.

The good news is the area is growing. That’s certainly better than shrinking. The challenge remains being able to provide quality full-time positions with healthcare coverage and a good salary.

No one is going to argue that 25 new jobs in the healthcare of technology fields are more valuable to the local economy than 25 new jobs at a restaurant.

All jobs are not created equal. Now that we are growing, we must continue to work to bring in jobs that pay well, provide benefits and help us improve the quality of life for area families.