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County Distress Rankings (Tiers)

2019 County Tier Designations

The North Carolina Department of Commerce annually ranks the state’s 100 counties based on economic well-being and assigns each a Tier designation. This Tier system is incorporated into various state programs to encourage economic activity in the less prosperous areas of the state.

The 40 most distressed counties are designated as Tier 1, the next 40 as Tier 2 and the 20 least distressed as Tier 3.

Review the 2020 County Tier Designations Memo (revised December 2, 2019 following original publication on November 27, 2019)

County Tiers are calculated using four factors:

  • Average unemployment rate
  • Median household income
  • Percentage growth in population
  • Adjusted property tax base per capita

Beginning with the 2019 rankings,  only these four factors determine final Tier rank.  In previous years, additional 'adjustment factors' were also considered in the calculations.  In 2018, the North Carolina General Assembly eliminated these adjustment factors from the Tier ranking methodology (S.L. 2018-5, Section 15.2.a).

2020 County Tier Designations

County Tier
Alamance 2
Alexander 2
Alleghany 2
Anson 1
Ashe 2
Avery 2
Beaufort 1
Bertie 1
Bladen 1
Brunswick 3
Buncombe 3
Burke 2
Cabarrus 3
Caldwell 1
Camden 2
Carteret 2
Caswell 1
Catawba 2
Chatham 3
Cherokee 2
Chowan 1
Clay 2
Cleveland 1
Columbus 1
Craven 2
Cumberland 1
Currituck 3
Dare 2
Davidson 2
Davie 3
Duplin 1
Durham 3
Edgecombe 1
Forsyth 2
Franklin 2
Gaston 2
Gates 2
Graham 1
Granville 2
Greene 1
Guilford 2
Halifax 1
Harnett 2
Haywood 3
Henderson 3
Hertford 1
Hoke 2
Hyde 1
Iredell 3
Jackson 2
Johnston 3
Jones 1
Lee 2
Lenoir 1
Lincoln 3
Macon 2
Madison 2
Martin 1
McDowell 2
Mecklenburg 3
Mitchell 1
Montgomery 2
Moore 3
Nash 1
New Hanover 3
Northampton 1
Onslow 1
Orange 3
Pamlico 2
Pasquotank 1
Pender 3
Perquimans 1
Person 2
Pitt 1
Polk 2
Randolph 2
Richmond 1
Robeson 1

Rockingham

1
Rowan 2
Rutherford 1
Sampson 1
Scotland 1
Stanly 2
Stokes 2
Surry 2
Swain 1
Transylvania 2
Tyrrell 1
Union 3
Vance 1
Wake 3
Warren 1
Washington 1
Watauga 3
Wayne 1
Wilkes 1
Wilson 1
Yadkin 2
Yancey 2

For your convenience, you can download a chart with North Carolina's County Average Private Sector Wages here.  Please note, however, that this wage statistic is not used in the calculation methodology that determines these Tier rankings.