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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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 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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Income Mixing and Inequality in the Research Triangle

The greater Triangle area—including the cities of Raleigh and Durham—is one of the fastest-growing metros in the county.  Raleigh’s population increased 48% between 2000 and 2012, making it the fastest-growing city in the U.S. over that time.  Affordable housing pressures have come with such strong population growth, and affordability was recently a campaign issue in both Raleigh and Chapel Hill.  As the Triangle continues to grow, policy-makers, planners, and developers must work to ensure that its neighborhoods remain economically and socially integrated.


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Measuring Income Mixing and Inequality in North Carolina

The Center for Urban & Regional Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is thrilled to announce the launch of our new blog, Urban 2 Point 0. Focusing on urban issues relevant to North Carolina and beyond, Urban 2 Point 0 will present easily digestible data analysis complemented by infographics, maps, and other visuals. In our first series of posts, we’ll look at income mixing across neighborhoods in North Carolina’s three largest metro areas:  Charlotte, the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham), and the Triad (Greensboro and Winston-Salem). We hope to show not only the level of mixing within each metro, but also income inequality across neighborhoods—that is, where poor or wealthy households are concentrated.


North Carolina is home to some of the fastest-growing cities in the nation (click image below for link to interactive map). Between 2000 and 2012, the Raleigh metro area grew faster than any large city, while Charlotte was close behind, ranking 5th. Largely due to its growing cities, North Carolina’s population exceeded the 10 million mark in 2015.

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