A Tale of Two States, Part I: Job Growth in North Carolina since 1990

Many know that North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states. It has added nearly 750,000 private-sector jobs since 1990, and its population recently eclipsed the 10 million mark. This job growth hasn’t touched all parts of the state, though: half of it has occurred in only two counties, and over one-third of the state’s counties have actually lost jobs over the past 25 years.

In the next series of posts, U2P0 will examine how the geography of jobs across the state has shifted since 1990, both overall and for specific industries.

Between 1990 and 2015, North Carolina’s population increased by nearly 3.5 million – a 52% gain – and the state added 766,992 private-sector jobs, which represents an increase of 29% over 1990 figures. Due to the state’s growing economy, Raleigh was recently ranked as the number one city for jobs by CNN.

Despite this strong job growth, 38 of the state’s 100 counties have fewer private-sector jobs in 2015 than they did in 1990. Twenty-six of those counties – over two-thirds of them – are either small towns or rural in character, and many are in the western and northeastern parts of the state. Much of these job losses have occurred as agricultural and textile industries have either shrunk or moved offshore.


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Transportation Affordability in Metro Charlotte

Like other North Carolina metros – and many cities throughout the Sunbelt – Charlotte is very sprawling.  A recent report ranked the city as the 25th -most sprawling in the country.  However, among metros with a population of over one million, Charlotte ranked 5th in terms of sprawl.*


Households devote less of their income to transportation in the denser parts of Charlotte.  Click the map to interact with it.

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Transportation Affordability in North Carolina’s Research Triangle

We begin our analysis of transportation affordability by examining the Triangle metro area.  Like many metros in North Carolina, the Triangle is very sprawling.  A recent report ranked Raleigh-Cary as the 67th most sprawling metro (out of 221 analyzed), while Durham-Chapel Hill placed 31st.*  Both have little mixing between residential areas and job centers – meaning that residents have to drive longer distances to employment.  This, in turn, drives up transportation costs for residents.


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Transportation Affordability in North Carolina’s Cities

In our next series of posts, we’ll shift our attention to a major cost faced by low-income households: transportation.  Transportation is most families’ second-greatest expense (after housing); on average, Americans spend nearly 14% of their income on it.  However, the average poor family spends nearly 23% of their income on transportation, but despite paying more their transportation is often less reliable.

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