Commentary

No “Carolina Comeback” here: New numbers show dozens of NC counties falling further behind

There’s still more news this week of the flawed and wildly uneven nature of the supposed “Carolina Comeback.” The July employment numbers are in and they continue to signal what experts are describing as a “soft” and unsatisfactory situation in numerous North Carolina counties. This is from economist, Dr. Patrick McHugh of the N.C. Budget and Tax Center (You can check out a map documenting McHugh’s findings by clicking here.):

“Too many communities across North Carolina still have not recovered from the Great Recession, and many continue to fall further and further behind. Only 46 of North Carolina’s 100 counties met or exceeded the national average rate of employment growth (1.8 percent) over the past year, a clear sign that the job market remains extremely weak across much of the state.

‘It’s simply inaccurate to claim that North Carolina’s economic performance is the best in the country’ said Patrick McHugh, Economic Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, part of the NC Justice Center. ‘There are fewer employed people today than before the Great Recession in over half of the counties in our state, so leaders in Raleigh should be focused on extending the reach of the recovery rather than claiming to have fixed our state’s economic challenges.’

Highlights from today’s labor market data release include:

Many communities did not see growth over the past year. The labor force—the number of people employed or looking for work—decreased in 41 North Carolina counties. This means that some of the decline in local unemployment rates is actually a result of people moving or giving up on the job market, which is a clear sign that there are not enough job prospects in many communities.

Employment still depressed in many communities. Even after years of economic recovery, 56 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have fewer jobs today than existed before the Great Recession. The state population has increased and while job growth in some parts of the state has been significant, many communities still do not have enough jobs for everyone that wants to work.

Unemployment is still up in most metropolitan areas. Only three metropolitan areas have a lower unemployment rate than before the Great Recession. Moreover, the number of people out of work has grown faster than the number of people with a job in all of the following metropolitan areas: Asheville, Durham-Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Greenville, Jacksonville, New Bern, Raleigh, Rocky Mount, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem. This is a clear sign that even some cities that are doing comparatively well still do not have enough jobs.

For a summary of each county’s current economic data (Labor Market Watch) and how each county’s current economic figures compare to pre-recession levels (Recession Watch), visit our County Labor Market Watch section.

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