A new report released today finds that the income of the typical North Carolina household fell not just during the “Great Recession,” but has continued to fall during the recovery, leaving the proclamations of a “Carolina Comeback” far short of the mark. The report was written by John Quinterno of South by North Strategies, Ltd. on behalf of Think NC First.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • From 2007 to 2013, the inflation-adjusted income of the median North Carolina household dropped by more than 8%. Median incomes fell by 5.5% from 2007 to 2009 and by another 3.2% during the recovery that started in 2009 through 2013.
  • From 2009 to 2013, real average household income fell or remained unchanged for every household income group in North Carolina except for the top 5%.
  • The distribution of household income in North Carolina has grown more unequal since 2007, and the distribution of income in North Carolina in 2013 was more unequal than in the nation as a whole.
  • The annual earnings of the median worker (ages 16+) fell by 7.4% between 2007 and 2013.
  • Median annual earnings have fallen regardless of a worker’s level of education (ages 25+). Even typical workers with bachelor’s degrees or postgraduate degrees saw their earnings drop from 2007 to 2013.
  • Real median household income in North Carolina was effectively no different in 2013 than in 1984.

“Since peaking in early 2010, North Carolina’s unemployment rate has fallen sharply, a development that has led many civic leaders and pundits to herald a ‘Carolina Comeback.’ That claim, while alliterative, glosses over the deep problems that still trouble the state’s labor market and ignores the erosion in household income levels and living standards that have occurred since the last recession,” writes John Quinterno. “Judged against the criteria of broadly rising incomes and living standards, North Carolina’s comeback is far short of the mark.”

Download the report.

For questions about the report, interviews and other media requests please contact John Quinterno at johnq@sbnstrategies.com or (919) 622-2392.


About John Quinterno

John Quinterno is a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm in Chapel Hill that specializes in economic and social policy. Over the course of his career, Quinterno has written extensively about labor economics, workforce development, regional policy, social insurance, and postsecondary education. He is the author of the book Running the Numbers: A Practical Guide to Regional Economic and Social Analysis (New York: Routledge, 2014), as well as a visiting lecturer at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.