Our state is recovering from the great recession, but slowly. Unemployment in North Carolina still remains stubbornly high. What is the major problem holding back our economy? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.
“There’s no question we were slammed by the recession. North Carolina lost 330,000 jobs during the recession. We have clawed our way back. We’ve added about 200,000 jobs over the last three years. But if you dig deeper behind those numbers, you see there’s a stark difference between the way that urban areas are performing and rural areas are performing.
“For example, in the last 10 years the economies in urban areas of the state are up 23 percent. Rural areas have only expanded by 6 percent. And if you look at the top three metro areas in the state — the Triad, the Triangle and Charlotte — since 2010, they have accounted collectively for 70 percent of all the jobs that have been added. And actually the Triangle and Charlotte are now back to their pre-recessionary employment levels.
“So we are seeing these two sections of our state, urban and rural, really going in opposite directions. I think this is being pushed by information technology, which is creating jobs for college grads who want to live in urban areas.
“At the same time, more open free trade has hurt rural areas (that) used to depend on textiles, tobacco and furniture jobs. This urban-rural difference may indeed be the greatest challenge in our state.”