Latest labor market data shows ‘those being left behind are facing challenges that tax cuts alone will not resolve’

Raleigh (May 3, 2017) — Local labor market data released today continues to reveal a trend where urban counties lead the state in job growth, while the rest of the state lags behind. Presently, while only 50 counties have fewer jobs than before the Great Recession (down from previous months), it is worth noting the concentration of counties that are being left behind. The map below reveals groups of counties in the southeastern and northeastern parts of the state as well as a corridor on the Virginia border. 

“As employment prospects improve in urban and suburban counties, it is becoming increasingly clear those being left behind are facing challenges that tax cuts alone will not resolve,” said William Munn, Policy Analyst for the Budget and Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “Policymakers might find it worthwhile to analyze the similarities of counties in these regions to better prescribe remedies for their economic recovery.”

Highlights from March’s labor market data include:

  • Southeastern NC counties lost almost 7 percent of jobs since 2007, before the Great Recession: Cumberland, Sampson, Bladen, Columbus, Robeson, Scotland and Richmond counties have lost 19,124 jobs since before the recession. That is 6.8 percent loss of the total 278,274 Sandhills jobs had in 2007, a devastating blow to a region once dominated by tobacco and cotton agriculture. 
  • Northeastern and Coastal NC counties lost 7 percent of jobs since 2007, before the Great Recession: Twenty-two counties in the Northeastern and Coastal region of the state have lost 25,948 jobs since 2007.  This represents a decline of 7.4 percent of the total 349,186 jobs this region had before the recession. 
  • Some larger cities still face serious challenges: Fayetteville, Goldsboro, and Jacksonville have seen declines in their labor force since last year and appear to be losing ground. Since last year, collective wages in Fayetteville sunk 52 cents, while in Jacksonville they have declined 82 cents. 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 unemployment numbers much higher than the state average. Only 14 out of 24 communities have rates lower than 5.5 percent. As micro areas serve as connectors for rural and urban North Carolina, their economic health is a bellwether for collective economic progress.  

Click here for a summary of each county’s current economic data and how each county’s current economic figures compare to pre-recession levels.

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