Asheville is generally regarded as a hip city, with an active local music scene and lots of local breweries. It’s the sort of place that if you believe in the Creative Class construct, would seem should have an extremely vibrant economy, beyond being just a tourist mecca. That really isn’t the case though. From the Asheville Citizen-Times:

Businesses in Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties do not produce items worth a significant enough amount more than the raw materials used to generate them.

It is that formula that most determines what wages employees make in an area.

Total GDP for the Asheville metro area was about $14.8 billion in 2013, according to the most recent data available, which is from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Per worker, that figure equaled $59,822.

Comparatively, the national GDP that year was about $15.7 trillion and GDP per worker across the country was $86,189.


The Asheville metro’s median household income in 2013 was $43,916, which is the most recent data available and is from the U.S. Census Bureau.

North Carolina’s 2013 median household income, however, was almost $2,000 higher at $45,906. And the 2013 U.S. median household income was higher still, at $52,250.

“If you’re producing lower than average, then you can’t expect to be paid higher than average,” said James F. Smith, chief economist for Asheville-based Parsec Financial Inc., a wealth management advising company.

“That’s what should happen,” continued Smith, who also has served as a senior economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and as a consultant to the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers. “You should get paid in accordance with what you produce.”

Tourism as an economic driver? Not really, as GDP per worker in the accommodations and food services sector in greater Asheville is only $30,279.