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North Carolina releases revised county economic distress rankings

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North Carolina Department of Commerce
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Tier One counties are considered the most economically distressed, while Tier Three are the lowest.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce is out with revised economic distress rankings for all 100 counties.

According to the department, counties are placed into three tiers based on four factors:

  • Average unemployment rate for the most recent 12 months for which data are available.
  • Median household income for the most recent 12 months for which data are available.
  • Percentage growth in population for the most recent 36 months for which data are available.
  • Adjusted property tax base per capita for the most recent taxable year.

Tier One counties are considered the most economically distressed, while Tier Three are the lowest. For 2023, 40 counties are in Tier One, 40 are in Tier Two, and 20 are in Tier Three.

Onslow, Pitt, Randolph, Surry, and Transylvania counties moved to higher levels of distress. Those counties saw a drop in median income or an increase in unemployment.

Thanks to population growth and lower unemployment, Avery, Caldwell, Cleveland, Pasquotank, and Swain counties are considered less distressed.

Tier One counties are eligible for state money to encourage economic development, including school construction funds from the North Carolina Education Lottery.

You can read more about the latest rankings and the data behind them here.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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