Most job growth is going to urban counties, while smaller cities are seeing higher than average unemployment rates

Raleigh (April 5, 2017) — Even as the Senate has voted for another tax cut for wealthy people and large corporations, labor market figures reveal that this strategy continues to fail most communities in North Carolina. Job growth in most of the state remains tepid.

“North Carolina communities are clearly demonstrating a need for a comprehensive recovery strategy that requires an innovative set of tools,” said William Munn, Policy Analyst  for the Budget and Tax Center, part of the NC Justice Center. “Unfortunately, the General Assembly views itself as a hammer, and it just keeps nailing down destructive tax cuts to everyone’s detriment.”

Highlights from February’s labor market data include:

  • Most job growth is going to urban counties: The five largest counties in the state (Durham, Mecklenburg, Forsyth, Guilford and Wake) have accounted for 45 percent of the jobs created since the tax cuts that started in February of 2013. This is a clear sign that most counties in North Carolina have not prospered from the last round of tax cuts.
  • The majority of North Carolina counties still have not recovered. Even after years of economic recovery, 55 of North Carolina’s 100 counties had fewer jobs in February 2017 than existed before the Great Recession, and more than 60 percent of N.C. counties have an unemployment rate higher than pre-recession levels.
  • Many larger cities still face challenges: Half of the metropolitan areas failed to reach the 2 percent growth threshold over the past year. Only three of North Carolina’s 15 metropolitan areas have managed to push the unemployment rate below pre-recession levels. Even some cities that are generally seen as economic leaders still have not generated enough jobs for everyone that needs to work, and some parts of North Carolina continue to face deep economic challenges.
  • Smaller cities throughout North Carolina face even tougher prospects: Most micropolitan areas throughout North Carolina are experiencing employment numbers much higher than the state average. Twenty-two out of 24 communities have rates higher than 5.3 percent. Because micro areas serve as connectors for rural and urban North Carolina, their economic health is a bellwether for collective economic progress.

For a summary of each county’s current economic data, see our Labor Market Watch.

For a summary of how each county’s current economic figures compare to pre-recession levels, see our Recession Watch.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: William Munn, Budget & Tax Center Policy Analyst at the NC Justice Center, at (919) 856-2234 or; or Mel Umbarger, BTC Senior Communications Specialist at