Raleigh, N.C.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce released the county tier designations for 2020 today.  The designations, which are mandated by state law, play a role in several programs that assist in economic development.

The 2020 rankings comply with the methodology prescribed by the North Carolina General Assembly in General Statue §143B-437.08, which identifies four economic factors to be compiled and calculated by N.C. Commerce and then used to analyze and rank each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.  Each county is then assigned its tier designation ranking from one to three. Tier 1 counties are generally the most economically distressed and Tier 3 counties are generally the least economically distressed.

The rankings are based on an assessment of each county’s unemployment rate, median household income, population growth, and assessed property value per capita.  The law calls for 40 counties to be designated as Tier 1, 40 counties to be designated as Tier 2, and 20 counties to be designated Tier 3.

Seven counties will change tier designations for 2020.

Counties moving to a less distressed tier ranking include Gates, Hoke, and Surry. Counties moving to a more distressed tier ranking include Caldwell, Onslow, Pitt, and Wilkes.

Tier designations determine eligibility and guidelines for several different grant programs that N.C. Commerce administers including the One North Carolina Fund, building reuse, water and sewer infrastructure, and the downtown revitalization Main Street program.  Tier designations also play a role in the state’s performance-based Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program, serving as a mechanism to channel funds for infrastructure improvements to less populated areas of the state.

For more information about the tier designation system visit:

* Due to a data calculation error, an earlier version of this release incorrectly indicated Cleveland County would change tier level in 2020; in fact, it remains a Tier 1 county.

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