Publication Date



In recent decades, many local labor markets—especially those in former industrial areas—have experienced lagging employment rates, hourly wages, and annual earnings. Even in places that have thrived, disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups and those with less education have often fared poorly, and long-term growth has bypassed many Americans at the middle and bottom of the income distribution. This report examines the relative economic success over the past two decades (prior to the COVID pandemic) of different local labor markets throughout the United States, both for residents overall and for those of different demographic groups. We construct a new, publicly available database for economic indicators for these labor markets—both commuting zones and core-based statistical areas—for each of 160 demographic cells and three time periods. Our economic indicators account for demographic and cost-of-living differences across areas, facilitating comparisons of economic trends across geographies for different groups of interest. We show that locations that have performed well in terms of employment growth have not always performed well in terms of earnings growth; moreover, areas that have seen broad growth overall for their residents have often seen growth lag for vulnerable groups. To more systematically understand factors associated with economic success for different groups, we examine the relationship with baseline correlates and supplement these descriptive regressions with insights from narrative case studies. Although initial industry mix plays an important role, other factors, including government investment and local leadership, may matter even more.

Issue Date

March 2024


Upjohn project #34438


Smith Richardson Foundation

Subject Areas

EDUCATION; LABOR MARKET ISSUES; Unions and collective bargaining; Wages, health insurance and other benefits; Inequality; Minimum wage; ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT; Local labor markets; Regional policy and planning; Urban issues




Bartik, Timothy J., Brad Hershbein, Kathleen Bolter, Kyle Huisman, and W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. 2024. "Broadly Shared Local Economic Success Since 2000: New Measures and New Lessons for Communities." Report prepared for the Smith Richardson Foundation.