For Immediate Release
May 31, 2022

Living-Wage Jobs Rebound in Tech Regions Post-Pandemic, but Manufacturing Lags

Revival of tourism industry boosts living-wages in areas hit hardest by COVID-19

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Driven by high-tech and aerospace sectors, the “Space Coast” of Florida saw the biggest living-wage job growth in 2021 while supply chain issues caused the manufacturing-heavy Piedmont Triad in North Carolina to lose ground, according to an analysis by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP).

LISEP today released a comprehensive analysis of the True Rate of Unemployment (TRU) by Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) for 2021, a more in-depth version of its monthly True Rate of Unemployment report. For the purpose of this analysis, LISEP highlighted TRU’s sister metric, the TRU Out of the Population. This is defined as the percentage of the MSA’s total adult population (age 16 and older) who do not hold a full-time job, works part-time but desires full-time, and does not earn a wage paying above the poverty level. The calculations are based on data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Analyses based on the employment status of the entire population, as opposed to only the civilian workforce, serves as a more revealing barometer of labor trends during the pandemic due to a spike in discouraged workers dropping out of the labor market, according to LISEP.

In the TRU by MSA report, which compares 2020 to 2021 data, the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla., MSA — known as the Space Coast — posted the biggest gain in living-wage job growth among the nation’s 100 most populous MSAs, with 10% growth driven by high-tech, defense, and aerospace industries. This region was followed by the Austin-Round Rock, Texas, MSA with a 7.3% improvement and boasting Apple, Dell, IBM, and Samsung among its largest employers. Other metro areas traditionally reliant on the tourism and hospitality industry also posted big gains as COVID restrictions have eased: Fresno, Calif. (7.2%); Colorado Springs (5.9%); and Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Fla. (5.8%).

But even while much of the nation has enjoyed notable gains in living-wage employment as the pandemic eases, supply chain issues and other factors have hindered the recovery elsewhere. The manufacturing-intensive economy of the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina — the Greensboro-High Point and Winston-Salem MSAs — saw the nation’s highest growth in functional unemployment: Greensboro-High Point was first with an 8.2% spike, with Winston-Salem third, at 5.6%. In between with the second highest growth in functional unemployment is the Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y., MSA at 6.7%. The Springfield, Mass., and Columbia, S.C., MSAs, at 3.3% and 2.6%, respectively, round out the top five in terms of growing functional unemployment.

“While we remain hopeful for a post-pandemic recovery — and a recovery in every American city and town — the fact remains that many American families are hurting here and now, and cannot wait for things to ‘eventually’ get better,” said LISEP Chairman Gene Ludwig. “The trends are encouraging for some regions of the country, but for others, there is much work to be done. If policymakers are to make decisions to facilitate an equitable recovery, it’s important for them to be aware of the disparities these data show.”

About TRU

LISEP issued the white paper “Measuring Better: Development of ‘True Rate of Unemployment’ Data as the Basis for Social and Economic Policy'' upon announcing the new statistical measure in October 2020. The paper and methodology can be viewed here. LISEP issues TRU one to two weeks following the release of the BLS unemployment report, which occurs on the first Friday of each month. The TRU rate and supporting data are available on the LISEP website at


The Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP) was created in 2019 by Ludwig and his wife, Dr. Carol Ludwig. The mission of LISEP is to give policymakers a more transparent view into the economic well-being of middle- and low-income Americans, and seeks to advance the dialogue around policy solutions.

About Gene Ludwig

In addition to his role as LISEP chair, Gene Ludwig is founder of the Promontory family of companies and Canapi LLC, a financial technology venture fund. He is the CEO of Promontory MortgagePath, a technology-based mortgage fulfillment and solutions company. Ludwig is the former vice chairman and senior control officer of Bankers Trust New York Corp., and served as the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency from 1993 to 1998. He is also author of the book The Vanishing American Dream, which investigates the economic challenges facing middle- and low-income Americans. It was released in September 2020 by Disruption Books. On Twitter: @geneludwig.


Jim Gardner
(573) 680-1822