A new study shows that the state’s post-recession economic growth may only be worsening the income gap.

According to N.C. State Economist Mike Walden, while the highest and lowest paying jobs in the state have seen growth, “routine” middle-income jobs have decreased steadily in the past year.

Policy Analyst at the North Carolina budget and Tax Center Patrick Mchugh says this trend can be seen throughout our state.

“This is not limited to rural North Carolina small towns or former manufacturing cities,” said McHugh. “This is happening across the board, virtually every city.”

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Patrick McHugh.


In his study, Walden classifies the highest-paying employment bracket as professional and business services and the lowest as retail and transportation jobs. The middle-paying bracket includes restaurant and hospitality services.

While this trend is not unique to our state and can be seen on a national and even international level, North Carolina’s economic growth inequality is one of the most extreme in the nation.

“It is a lot worse here in North Carolina,” said McHugh. “Some of this has to do with the historical geography in North Carolina, and so I’d say the places that have been hit the hardest are a lot of the legacy manufacturing communities where these middle-income jobs grew up through most of the 20th century.”

According to Walden’s study, Charlotte and Raleigh have seen the highest percentage of employment growth since 2010 at 20 percent. Asheville, Durham and Wilmington have seen near 15 percent employment growth, and smaller cities like Burlington, Greensboro and Rocky Mount have seen the lowest employment growth.

McHugh believes that this regional and class-based inequality of job growth could be due to a long trend of job outsourcing and technological advancement.

“While you had, nationally and certainly in North Carolina, through basically the WWII era, is when we started to see really rapid deployment of technology and manufacturing and automation of manufacturing. That was probably the first wave,” said McHugh.

Walden projects that North Carolina will gain 90,000 jobs in 2017.