Ten of the UK's top 12 economically struggling cities are in the North, according to new research.
No cities from southern areas feature in the top 24 of a table drawn up for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
Rochdale, Burnley, Bolton, Blackburn and Hull headed the list, which studied employment rates, numbers of highly qualified workers, types of jobs and migration rates.
The research group said growth in many northern cities was lagging significantly behind national levels.
In a submission ahead of next month's Budget, JRF said the Treasury could create financial incentives for councils to tackle unemployment.
Josh Stott, policy and research manager at JRF, said: "Britain has the potential to become a more prosperous country, with George Osborne's Northern Powerhouse playing a key role in rebalancing the economy.
"But it must reach all parts of the North to ensure prosperity is shared. To rebalance the economy and ensure local growth provides opportunity for all households, the Treasury needs to ensure areas outside of core cities are not left behind.
"City leaders, with a new suite of powers at their disposal, must also show leadership to do their part to ensure growth and prosperity is shared by all."
Andy Pike, co-author of the report and Professor of Local and Regional Development in the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies at Newcastle University, said: "Many cities in the North are growing but are failing to keep up with national trends.
"There are three kinds of such cities - 'core', 'overshadowed' and 'freestanding' - each with different predicaments and potentials for growth and prosperity. If the commitment to rebalancing in the UK is meaningful then greater policy attention and resources by central and local government needs to be focused upon the particular needs of these cities lagging behind."
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "The Northern Powerhouse will transform our great northern cities and rebalance the economy, having already helped create record employment rates and getting more than 440,000 people into work since 2010.
"So far we have secured a host of devolution deals, and invested in transport, science and the arts across the region, backed by more than £4 billion of new funding from central Government.
"We want to harness the North's massive potential to drive the UK's economy, and its prospects make it a lucrative place to invest and live."