Easley received his NC Chamber award Tuesday and reminded people of economic accomplishments.
Now, less than three months out of office, he said he is not surprised NC ranks with the 4th highest unemployment rate.
"All of your manufacturing states are always going to have the highest unemployment rate because there's so much churning going on," Easley said. "It's out with the old and in with the new."
But others say those who have held power for eight years deserve not just credit in good times, but also deserve some blame for a high unemployment rate.
"North Carolina has one of the worst economies in the nation right now, and that's no accident," said John Hood of the John Locke Foundation.
Hood, whose foundation is conservative, said the unemployment picture is worse in NC because of higher taxes and regulation.
"People who thought that big government programs in Raleigh to subsidize new big companies was the solution to North Carolina's problems, need to read the headlines," Hood said.
Gov. Perdue said now is not the time to blame anyone. "Times are tough, and it's not time for partisan rhetoric or infighting between leaders or between the media and a leader," she said. "What we can blame North Carolina politicians for is not getting our state ready for a more difficult economic climate."