June’s local labor market release reveals stubbornly high unemployment rates for metro areas in Eastern NC.

Raleigh (Aug. 2, 2017) — June’s local labor market release reveals stubbornly high unemployment rates for metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in Eastern North Carolina. Six out of 7 of the highest unemployment rates are in metro cores in the Eastern part of the state. While there has been a general improvement in unemployment rates since 2016, cities in Eastern North Carolina have lagged behind the MSAs in the Triangle and Charlotte. Every MSA in Eastern North Carolina features unemployment rates higher than the state’s average in June.

“Cities have long served as commercial hubs for regional economic growth,” said William Munn, Policy Analyst for the Budget and Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “If cities in Eastern NC are struggling with persistently high unemployment, it is no wonder the broader region is hurting so badly.”

Recognizing how Eastern North Carolina metropolitan statistical areas support and are supported by micropolitan statistical areas (urban cores with at least 10,000, but less than 50,000 population) should be a priority for lawmakers. Fayetteville’s economic health has a direct impact on Laurinburg and Lumberton, two of the micro areas with some the highest unemployment rates at 7.6 percent and 6.2 percent respectively. Rocky Mount’s prosperity is important to Wilson and Roanoke Rapids, whose June unemployment rates correspondingly are 7.3 percent and 6.7 percent. Instead of expending resources to argue an urban/ rural divide, focusing on a strategy that highlights how both regions prosper concurrently is needed.

Highlights from this June’s labor market data include:

  • Unemployment in metro Eastern NC: Rocky Mount, Fayetteville, Greenville, Goldsboro, Jacksonville and New Bern all have unemployment rates higher than the state average. In fact, these metros make up 6 of the top 7 cores with the highest unemployment. Frighteningly, Rocky Mount’s 6.4 percent unemployment rate stands as an outlier amongst a group of cities with doggedly challenging economic indicators. 
  • Micropolitan areas in NC: Connected to Rocky Mount and Fayetteville MSAs both economically and geographically are the micropolitan statistical areas of Wilson, Roanoke Rapids, Laurinburg, Lumberton, and Rockingham. These regions host unemployment rates at or in excess of 5.7 percent. Most harmful is the Laurinburg micro area’s unemployment rate of 7.6 percent. 
  • High unemployment in Eastern NC counties: Scotland, Edgecombe, Wilson, Halifax, Warren, Hyde, Robeson, Nash, Washington, and Northampton are the ten counties with the state’s highest unemployment rates in June. These counties are exclusively located in Eastern NC and have not sufficiently recovered from the economic woes of the Great Recession or Hurricane Matthew. 

Link to a reference map of metro and micro statistical areas in North Carolina

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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT William Munn, Policy Analyst for the Budget and Tax Center, at (919) 856-2234 or will@ncjustice.org; or Mel Umbarger, BTC Senior Communications Specialist, at mel@ncjustice.org.