NC Department of Commerce, Labor & Economic Analysis Logo

Making Progress: An industry analysis of Black employment in North Carolina

Black workers’ earnings continue to lag behind white workers, but are there industries where the gap is closing? This blog uses Quarterly Workforce Indicator data from the US Census Bureau to highlight some industries where this gap is changing.

Author: Chi Wong & Neil Harrington

A racial wage gap persists among Black workers and White workers in North Carolina. The latest data from the Census Bureau’s Quarterly Workforce Indicator (QWI) dataset shows that the gap between these two groups’ earnings has hovered between 61 to 65 percent in the last 5 years across all industries. This disparity contributes to the wealth inequity between races, and begs the question: which, if any, individual industries are moving towards closing the gap? If so, these industries may be worth further analysis and understanding to find a way towards creating a more equitable, attractive future for North Carolina.

To accelerate the narrowing of the overall income, and subsequently wealth, gaps, the relevant industries should not only show wage growth for Black workers consistently exceeding that of White workers, but should also currently pay well (e.g., better than the state average) and be projected to grow faster than the state.[1] The following table shows nine industries which fit these criteria.

Table 1: Growing Industries Where the Racial Income Gap has Narrowed at the State Level

List of industries

Projected growth rates come from the 2021-2030 North Carolina Statewide Industry Projections. Average wages come from Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), and are adjusted using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculator from the Minneapolis Fed. The industries were selected via LEAD analysis of QWI data.

Creating more equal average wages in high-paying, prospering industries is one way to close the overall racial pay gap.  However, an industry-level analysis is limited in our ability to fully examine racial pay disparities.  This analysis doesn’t say anything about whether pay differences are due to inequal pay for equal work or whether it is a reflection of the types of jobs performed by racial groups within an industries – e.g. having more Whites in high-paying executive positions and more Blacks in lower-paid production positions.  In order to truly compare pay differences between racial groups, a deep examination at the occupational level would be required.  Unfortunately quality, timely occupational data by race is limited.

[1] A complete set of statewide industry and occupation projections for 2021-2030 can be found at and

Related Topics: