As the General Assembly resumes its duties, new local labor market data provide a reminder that policies enacted over the last several years have not delivered an economy that works for everyone.

State job growth has modestly outpaced the nation over the last year, but far too many communities and families are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession and find their footing in a fast-changing global marketplace.

“Job growth at the state level isn’t particularly helpful if it isn’t happening where you live, or you don’t have the experience or training needed to get the jobs that are out there,” said Patrick McHugh, Economic Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, part of the NC Justice Center. “Sooner or later we are going to have to get serious about ensuring everyone is connected to the global marketplace and that good jobs are being created in every community.”

Highlights from this month’s labor market data include:

  • The majority of North Carolina counties still have not recovered. Even after years of economic recovery, 54 of North Carolina’s 100 counties had fewer jobs in December 2016 than existed before the Great Recession. Even while the statewide population swells and strong job growth occurs in some parts of the state, many communities have not fully recovered.
  • Inadequate job growth is not limited to rural communities. The majority of North Carolina’s metropolitan areas (10 of 15) still have higher unemployment rates than before the Great Recession. Some urban areas like Raleigh, Asheville, and Charlotte have seen several years of strong employment growth, but many cities are still not surging ahead in equal measure. Four metropolitan areas (Fayetteville, Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, New Bern, Rocky Mount) are still not back to the number of jobs they had before the recession and over half of the state’s metropolitan areas are above the 5 percent unemployment threshold that many economists consider full employment.
  • Labor force participation is up across much of North Carolina, but gains bypass many communities. Most of North Carolina’s communities have seen their labor force grow at least somewhat over the last year, an encouraging sign. However, this recent warming of the labor market has not occurred in many communities that have struggled for the last decade or more. Ten counties saw the size of their labor force decline in the last year, putting all of these communities even farther behind where they were in 2008. More than half of the counties in North Carolina have fewer people participating in the labor market today than before the recession.

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

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