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Small Towns Left Behind In N.C. Recovery


Almost all North Carolina counties have a lower unemployment rate than they did a year ago. But the latest job numbers show that the state’s economic recovery is much more concentrated than that.

Here’s a simple theory to explain job growth: do you live near an interstate?

"Most of the improvements in the state’s unemployment rate are coming along the I-40 and the I-85, I-95 corridors," said Allan Freyer, an analyst for the N.C. Budget and Tax Center.

Freyer said big cities off the interstates are the only places really recovering in North Carolina. 

"Since the formal end of the recession in June of 2009, virtually all of North Carolina’s job growth has come from the state’s metro areas," he said.

The exact number? Ninety-eight percent. That means rural areas have created almost no jobs during the past three years. 

Freyer figured that out by working through the latest data from the N.C. Department of Commerce.

He said while it’s certainly a good thing that the state’s big cities are creating lots of jobs, it also means the state’s small towns are getting left behind. Here’s why.

"Rural communities before the recession were extremely reliant on the very types of manufacturing that were hit the hardest during the recession, particularly textile manufacturing, tobacco and furniture manufacturing," Freyer said.

And now, he said figuring out how to grow both the small towns and the big