© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. The sets of relatively high and low unemployment regions have not changed in decades. Since generic labour market reforms have been fruitless on this respect, we explore whether such groups of regions react differently to key drivers of employment and wage setting. We find that while the more developed regions respond to labour share and investment innovations, employment in the more lagging regions is mainly led by capital accumulation. Our results give support to a place-based strategy of regional development, call for more region-specific policies and discard standard labour market reforms as a unique tool to manage the unemployment rate problem.