RALEIGH (October 30, 2019) — National and state labor market indicators reflect slow but continued job growth with unemployment rates at 3.3 percent and 3.5 percent respectively in September. While resilient in the face of a slowing economy, these measures mask regional challenges where stubbornly high unemployment rates, coupled with job loss, signal an incomplete recovery. There are 77 counties in North Carolina that have unemployment rates the same or higher than September 2018, 51 counties with rates higher than the state unadjusted average, and 42 counties that have lost jobs since December of 2007.

While counties facing these economic outcomes are geographically dispersed throughout the state, there is still a concentration of affected communities along the southeastern and northeastern corners of the state. In fact, 26 of the 42 counties that have lost jobs since the beginning of the Great Recession are from these county groupings. The northeastern part of the state is host to a group of counties — Vance, Warren, Halifax, Edgecombe, Wilson, and Hyde — whose unemployment rates are all nearly 2 percentage points higher than the state’s September average.

Metropolitan centers such as Asheville, Wilmington, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Durham-Chapel Hill and Raleigh continue to drive the state’s year-over-year job growth. These six metros account for more than 3 million positions in North Carolina, more than 60 percent of all jobs in the state.

“National and state declines in headline unemployment do not signal a healthy and complete recovery. The state’s growth is far too concentrated in urban North Carolina,” said William Munn, Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “We need to take a hard look at how it is we address the underlying drivers that stymie growth outside the urban corridors throughout this state.”

Here are a couple of indicators highlighting North Carolina’s varying economic outcomes:

  • Port City Power: Wilmington saw job growth of 6.8 percent from September of 2018. Since the Great Recession, the metropolitan statistical area has experienced job growth of 24 percent. In 2016, the city approved a 2016 Parks Bond project of $38 million, and local hiring has benefited from subsequent construction projects.
  • Asheville, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and Raleigh MSAs are continuing to grow: These metros all have experienced year-over-year job growth rates of 4.4, 3.7, 3.3, and 3.9 percent, respectively. The state leaders in job growth since December of 2007, Charlotte and Raleigh have seen their job growth increase 31 and 36 percent.
  • Challenges for Northeastern NC: Roanoke Rapids, Rocky Mount, and Wilson have lost 12.8, 6.3, and 13.7 percent of their jobs since the beginning of the Great Recession. This rural swath of the state is host to some of the highest unemployment rates, the aforementioned areas experiencing rates 1.8, 1.3 and 2 percent higher than the state average.

For charts showing numbers for all counties and micro/metro areas and for county-level data downloads, visit NCJustice.org/LaborMarket.

For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out the Budget & Tax Center’s weekly Prosperity Watch report.

The nonpartisan Budget & Tax Center is a project of the NC Justice Center, which works to eliminate poverty in North Carolina by ensuring every household in the state has access to the resources, services and fair treatment it needs to achieve economic security.

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