A Tale of Two States: Job Growth and Change in North Carolina, 1990-2015

Over the last twenty-five years, North Carolina has been one of the fastest-growing states in the country. The state’s economy has diversified beyond agriculture and manufacturing to become dominant in both finance and technology. The state has also attracted retirees drawn to its high-class medical facilities, especially in the Research Triangle area around Raleigh and Durham.

This economic transformation has not benefited the entire state, however. Small towns and rural areas – many reliant on tobacco farming and textile manufacturing – have lost both population and jobs as their economic prospects have dimmed. Some of these counties, though, have reinvented themselves as tourism hubs – particularly in the western part of the state.

In the next series of posts, U2P0 will examine the changing geography of jobs in North Carolina from 1990 to 2015. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we’ll report private-sector job changes both overall and within certain industries. The first post will examine total job changes from 1990 through 2015, and our attention will then turn to manufacturing, technology, finance, and tourism.

We’ve termed the series “A Tale of Two States” to reflect the highly-divergent economic trajectories of the state’s counties. Over half of the state’s private-sector job growth has occurred in two counties: Mecklenburg (Charlotte) and Wake (Raleigh). Outside of those places, counties have either gained a more modest number of employment opportunities or struggled with job loss.

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