RALEIGH (September 1, 2015) — Many local economies across North Carolina have not fully recovered from the Great Recession, according to the latest county data. Every metropolitan area, and most counties, still have more people looking for work than before the economic collapse in 2007. Wage growth has been anemic across much of the state, so even people that have a job are struggling to make ends meet, holding the entire economy back.

“While many of North Carolina’s most distressed economies are in rural parts of the state, the recovery is bypassing a lot of people who live in urban areas that we tend to think of as doing better,” said Patrick McHugh, Economic Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “There’s a narrative out there that only the rural parts of the state are in bad shape, and that’s simply not the case. Although it’s certainly true that most of rural North Carolina is hurting, unemployment has grown faster than employment in every metropolitan area across the state as well.”

Wages have not kept up with inflation in many parts of the state and have actually lost ground to inflation in more than half of the metro areas since the start of the recession.

“Even in places like Raleigh and Charlotte, often described as North Carolina’s economic engines, an hour’s pay does not buy as much as it did in 2007,” McHugh said.

Key findings from the county data include:

  • Only 2 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have reached the 5 percent threshold for unemployment that many economists view as full employment.
  • The number of people looking for work is still higher than it was before the recession in 82 counties.
  • 63 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have not gotten back to pre-recession levels of employment.
  • 16 counties actually lost jobs over the last year.

Key findings from the metropolitan data include:

  • While most metropolitan areas have added jobs since the start of the Great Recession, the number of people looking for work has grown faster in every metropolitan area during that period.
  • Hourly wages have grown slower than inflation in eight of North Carolina’s 15 metropolitan areas since the start of the Great Recession (Asheville, Charlotte, Goldsboro, Greensboro-High Point, Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, New Bern, Raleigh, and Wilmington).
  • Hourly wages have lost at least 10 percent of their purchasing power since the start of the Great Recession in four metropolitan areas (Goldsboro, Greensboro-High Point, New Bern, and Wilmington).

The Budget and Tax Center provides summaries of each county’s current labor market data, and how each county has fared since the start of the recession.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Patrick McHugh, patrick.mchugh@ncjustice.org; Jeff Shaw, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).