For the banking town of Charlotte, the Great Recession hit hard. Few of us can forget the upside-down mortgages, collapse of the real estate market, or millions of lost jobs. Wachovia and Bank of America headquarters left the city at the beginning of the recession, and several others have left since then. The economic landscape has changed drastically over the last decade, but obstacles to fully recovered health still stand in the way. As we look ahead to the future for metropolitan areas like Charlotte, it’s best to first look behind. So, where have we come since the Great Recession?
Let’s be frank: after nearly 9 million Americans lost their jobs throughout the Great Recession, the national job growth was undeniably slow. Unemployment rates climbed above 8 percent for a record-breaking 43 months. But once job growth started, it quickly gained speed. Charlotte’s unemployment rate was last reported at 3.8 percent, which is right in line with the national average.
After losing those key bank headquarters, Charlotte recovered by welcoming several heavy-hitting company headquarters like Electrolux and MetLife over the last few years. With these large companies came job opportunities and a growing population, two factors that could aid in improving overall employment statistics.
Income Inequality vs Wealth Inequality
While overall job growth has picked up in Charlotte, there’s been quite a bit of disparity within the city. Lower paying jobs in food service grew faster than higher-paying jobs that require more education and training. This trend directly impacts wages, which haven’t increased nearly as fast as employment.
This speaks to why there’s a slight narrowing in income inequality (money brought in) but an increase in wealth inequality (overall assets). The Charlotte economy provides the perfect vacuum of the discrepancy happening on a national level. As minimum wage slowly increases, it’s not enough to compensate for the wealth gap between the richest and poorest in the city.
This wealth gap continues to widen by the lack of middle-class jobs like manufacturing. Unequal wage distribution will remain a top concern in Charlotte and the rest of the country until more middle-of-the-road jobs become available.
As with all economic predictions, there are plenty of floating doomsday theories. Some experts say we’re quickly heading toward another recession, while others are encouraged by the (somewhat stunted) growing economy. The growth is encouraging, but for as much recovery as Charlotte has seen in the last decade, unemployment is still rather high.
So where do we go from here? Major companies are still flocking to Charlotte and bringing plenty of high-paying jobs. Lower-paying service industries will no doubt be growing to keep up with the population growth. But until there’s an answer for the disappearing middle class in Charlotte, growth is likely to hit a plateau sooner rather than later.