New jobs report: Big recovery in largest metro areas, most of the state still lagging

The last North Carolina jobs report for 2022 was just released, and the NC Budget & Tax Center published a detailed analysis Wednesday.

Good news? Bad news?

It really depends how you look at it — and especially where you look.

North Carolina added more than 190,000 jobs in 2022. That isn’t just good  it’s 226,000 jobs over pre-COVID-19 levels. But almost all of that growth is in the state’s two largest metro areas, the Triangle area and Charlotte. Those two metros account for 110,000 of those jobs added last year, which the BTC points out is nearly 60% of the net job growth for the year.*

How did other metros do? Not a single one added even 10,000 jobs.

Sixty of the state’s 100 counties still have fewer residents working than before COVID-19. That’s not just a measure of the impact of the pandemic. Nearly half of the counties in the state have never fully recovered from the Great Recession and still have fewer people working than before 2008.

Among the 24 smaller “mircopolitan” cities in the state, 18 are still below pre-COVID employment levels. Seven of those cities Lumberton, Kinston, Marion, Wilson, Roanoke Rapids, Mount Airy, and North Wilkesboro  still have at least 1,000 fewer residents working than before the pandemic.

“We’re looking at some pretty stark divides that need to be addressed,” said Patrick McHugh, research manager at the NC Budget & Tax Center Federal and author of the analysis, in a statement.

“Federal aid and a strong market in general have propelled some city economies ahead, but we’re at risk of replaying our failure to drive a truly statewide recovery,” McHugh said. “Unless legislators in Raleigh are compelled to pick a different path this year, many of the communities, families, and workers who lost out following the Great Recession will be on the outside looking in — again — as we rebuild from COVID-19.”

*…The BTC initially reported this number incorrectly — it has been updated to correct a math error.

Read the full analysis from the NC Budget & Tax Center here.

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New jobs report: Big recovery in largest metro areas, most of the state still lagging