A Tale of Two States III: White-Collar Jobs


Welcome back to Urban2Point0! After an extended holiday break in a time zone far, far away (post forthcoming), we’re ready to wrap-up our analysis of North Carolina’s job growth.

Our last post showed how, in a period when North Carolina added nearly three-quarters of a million jobs, the state also experienced significant job losses in the manufacturing sector. Small towns and rural counties were hit especially hard by these job losses – in fact, small towns lost nearly half of their manufacturing jobs between 1990 and 2015.

In this post, we’ll shift our attention to white-collar jobs, specifically finance and professional services – which includes management, research, and engineering.* These industries have driven job growth in both North Carolina and the entire U.S. over the past decades. White-collar jobs tend to concentrate in large cities, and North Carolina is no different – with Charlotte serving as a major financial center and Raleigh as a hub of research and technology.

The two white-collar industries that this post examines are finance and what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls “professional and business services” – more on that below. Not surprisingly, both finance and professional services jobs have increased in North Carolina since 1990. The state has added over 78,000 finance jobs since 1990, more than doubling in that time period. For professional services, North Carolina gained over 350,000 jobs – a greater than 150 percent increase.

There are two ways of looking at the county-level data, and each way tells a different story. When we look at percentage growth over the past 25 years, many counties have experienced very sharp increases in both finance and professional jobs. For instance, Madison County in extreme western North Carolina increased its professional services jobs by 497 percent, while Currituck County (in the state’s northeastern corner) increased its financial services jobs by 680 percent.

When our focus shifts to the number of jobs added, though, the conclusions shift dramatically. Mecklenburg and Wake Counties have added by far the most white-collar jobs, with only small increases in small towns and rural counties. In fact, that 497 percent in Madison County only represents an increase of 497 positions. The 680 percent increase in Currituck County’s finance jobs translates to only 544 actual jobs added.


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