When is someone going to ask Mayor Anthony Foxx about the jobs lost on his watch?
Tim Newman wants to know, and so do I.
"Hey Mayor Foxx when you create a job call me... otherwise go to the place you deserve... that would be Hell," someone posted on Newman's Facebook page. At least that's what WBTV reported.
I don't know about sending Foxx to Hell over Charlotte's job creation situation, but so far, Newman, the disgraced and recently demoted former CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, is the only person I know of willing to publicly ask Foxx tough questions about job creation. (Newman claims someone else posted the statement after stealing his cell phone, which he has since gotten back.)
Foxx and his opponent, Scott Stone, are battling over how many jobs Foxx has created, which cracks me up. This has mostly been caused by the local media allowing Foxx to mouth off about creating 12,000 jobs without fact-checking him on it.
I suspect the local media lets Foxx get away with distorting the truth because no one wants to take an honest look at how devastated the Charlotte jobs market really is. To call Foxx on the carpet, they'd have to print the truth about the tens of thousands of jobs Charlotte has lost that haven't come back. No one wants to do that with the Democratic National Convention coming and Charlotte about to be featured on a national stage.
Whatever the case, if Foxx is going to take credit for creating jobs — a laughable claim for a part-time mayor — then he must also take credit for the loss of jobs on his watch, because thousands have disappeared.
When Foxx took office in 2009, as the Charlotte Observer reported last week, just under 311,000 people in Charlotte had jobs. Last month, 315,140 people did. That makes it look like 4,000 jobs have been added. What the Observer didn't report is that in May 2010, employment hit a high of 318,278 before plunging again on Foxx's watch, according to the state employment commission website.
A better question to ask the mayor would be where the 3,000 jobs that were lost on his watch went. Or why, if job creation is going so smashingly under Foxx, we were back down to a total of 311,000 people employed in Charlotte in January, exactly where we started when he took office.
The answer is that this is just the natural fluctuation of a few thousand jobs that has always happened in this market, even before the recession. Up or down, it has nothing to do with the mayor.
What is devastating is the actual jobs picture, the one no one here ever talks about publicly. Charlotte lost almost 30,000 jobs in the two years before Foxx took office and he and the rest of us are getting nowhere in replacing them, fluctuations of a few thousand jobs not withstanding. This is why we have a near 10-percent unemployment rate and an African-American unemployment rate of nearly twice that. And it's why the prospect of more bank layoffs is so devastating — because we already have an unemployment picture that is worse than the national average.
Worse yet, the jobs picture appears to be heading south again in Charlotte. Starting this March, there were fewer people employed in the city each month than during the same month last year. (The July jobs number hasn't been adjusted yet, so it's pretty useless.) Hopefully that's just another fluctuation, rather than a downward trend.
Maybe Foxx's 12,000 jobs will show up someday. They're mostly jobs that businesses promise to create in the future in exchange for millions in incentive money. Charlotte can't count on that. Sending Foxx and some guys from the Charlotte Chamber out to shake hands and deliver multimillion-dollar promises in exchange for creating a few hundred jobs at a time isn't going to cut it. Charlotte needs a hard-core recruitment plan for attracting entire new business sectors. Until we are willing to do something that makes us stand out — like offer the lowest tax rates in the Southeast instead of some of the highest, or drop kicking the income tax as a state — we will get nowhere.