Every year since 2007, the N.C. Department of Commerce reviews the overall economic conditions for all of North Carolina’s 100 counties. The department recently completed and released its new calculations and designations, which impact state funding resources available to some of the most-distressed counties in the state.
Among the state’s 18 westernmost counties, rankings were changed in three counties. Both Haywood and Mitchell counties’ rankings improved. Haywood County is now in the third tier — the designation for the least-distressed counties in the state. Mitchell County’s ranking increased to the second tier, which is the middle designation.
The only county in Western North Carolina whose designation worsened was in Macon County, which is now in the first tier — the designation for the most-distressed counties in the state.
But how are these designations determined?
According to the Department of Commerce, the rankings use four factors:
- The average unemployment rate for the most recent 12 months;
- Median household income;
- Percentage growth in population; and
- Adjusted property tax base per capita.
Additionally, state law requires that some counties automatically qualify for the first and second tiers. A county is automatically in the first tier if, for example, it has a population of less than 12,000 people or has a population of less than 50,000 people and a poverty rate of 19 percent or greater. A county is automatically qualified for tier two if it has a population of less than 50,000 people.
According to the Department of Commerce, Haywood County’s designation improved “based largely on a much-improved population growth ranking.”
Mitchell County’s ranking improved, the agency said, largely based on an improved population growth ranking and an improved unemployment rate ranking.
Macon County, on the other hand, automatically qualified for the first tier because its poverty rate reached 19.6 percent and its population was less than 50,000.