GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The North Carolina Department of Commerce released its latest tier rankings for counties statewide.

Counties across the state are either listed as tier one, two or three counties. Tier one is the most distressed and tier three is the least distressed. On that list, Pitt and Onslow counties dropped from tier two to tier one and Pasquotank County jumped from tier one to two.

The study states the shift for Pitt County is largely because of a change in the county’s median household income, which decreased from about $53,000 to about $50,000.

Kelly Andrews, Pitt County’s economic development director, said Pitt County improved in three of the four categories this year, but not as much compared to other counties who are also improving.

Andrews listed in a statement to WNCT:

  1. Pitt’s average unemployment rate improved from 5.15% in the 2022 ranking to 4.01% in the current ranking. However, the rank relative to other counties fell from 45 to 35 in that category (higher being better in the 100-county ranking system). 
  1. Pitt’s median household income decreased from $52,961 to about $50,000, and the rank fell from 62 to 46.  This is the only category in which Pitt County declined in the actual numbers (as compared to the rankings). 
  1. Pitt’s percentage growth in the population increased by nearly 2%, moving the ranking up from 53 last year to 66 this year. This is the strongest category and puts the county in the top third in the state.   
  2. Pitt’s adjusted property tax base per capita increased from $85,937 last year to $87,122 this year. However, that ranking relative to other counties fell from 24 last year to 21 this year.

“While we do not want to be categorized as a tier one, this ranking is based on four specific data points, and compared to the other 99 counties in NC this year, our ranking slipped,” Andrews said. “Based on the progress that Pitt County has made over the last year, this ranking is not reflective of our growth and other measures would show this more effectively.”

Andrews said Pitt County consistently struggles with the tax base per capita.

“Given the significant amount of exempt property that we have, including one the largest nonprofit hospital systems and one of the largest universities in the State,” she said. “These entities are tremendous economic engines for Pitt County, but based on the tax base per capita measure, their impact does not show up.”

According to the state, these tiers determine state funding to help with economic development.

“One positive with this ranking, though, is that for the time that we are considered a tier 1, we will be eligible for the highest incentive offerings and top priority for grants in various state programs,” she said.

To see the Department of Commerce’s full report, click here.