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2017-2026 Sub-State Long Term Industry Projections for North Carolina

Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Jeff Rosenthal

Last month, we released our 2017-2026 Sub-State Long Term Industry Projections for North Carolina. As reported in our summary of the 2017-2026 Statewide Long Term Employment Projections, we project an increase in jobs of about 389,000 with an annualized growth rate (AGR) of 0.89%, and a growth rate over the period of 8.3%1. This summary shows the variation of growth across the state in terms of regions and industries. Before we get into the summary, a brief description of the regions is in order.

North Carolina’s Sub-State Regions

We have produced projections for 16 Sub-State Regions across the state. These regions were based first on the eight Prosperity Zones across our state.  From here, we did some research on commuting patterns and consulted with people across the Workforce Development Community to determine regions that are smaller, and within these Prosperity Zones. Six of the eight Prosperity Zones are split in two, while Charlotte remains intact, and the Southeast Prosperity Zone has 3 sub-regions: Goldsboro-Kinston, Jacksonville-New Bern, and Wilmington.

General growth by region

We project growth for all 16 regions, but the rates of growth vary from relatively flat growth for Rocky Mount-Wilson (0.01% AGR) to faster growth for Wilmington (1.51% AGR).

Area Name Employment Estimate 2017 Employment Estimate 2026 Net Change Annualized Growth Rate (%)
Wilmington 166,639 190,623 23,984 1.51
Charlotte 1,185,823 1,317,580 131,757 1.18
Raleigh-Durham 1,069,027 1,164,901 95,874 0.96
Asheville 221,808 241,175 19,367 0.93
North Carolina 4,684,945 5,073,989 389,044 0.89
Jacksonville-New Bern 125,269 135,092 9,823 0.84
Waynesville-Franklin 70,197 75,472 5,275 0.81
Pinehurst-Rockingham 62,694 66,442 3,748 0.65
Greenville 143,866 151,519 7,653 0.58
Fayetteville-Lumberton 240,644 252,148 11,504 0.52
Winston-Salem 310,455 320,756 10,301 0.36
Greensboro 444,543 459,053 14,510 0.36
Hickory 179,755 185,065 5,310 0.32
Boone-Wilkesboro 80,370 82,097 1,727 0.24
Goldsboro-Kinston 99,347 101,341 1,994 0.22
Elizabeth City 63,633 64,656 1,023 0.18
Rocky Mount-Wilson 98,865 98,921 56 0.01

Much like recent national trends, the greatest projected growth can be seen in the largest metropolitan areas such as Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.  There is also notable projected growth in Wilmington and Asheville.  

What is underlying this growth?

By and large, the service-providing domain level are driving the projected growth across the state while the goods-producing domain level industries show more modest growth or even decline in several regions.  At the state level, the projected annualized growth rate for service-providing industries (1.03%) is over 5x larger than the projected annualized growth rate for goods-producing industries (0.16%).  This works out to about 35 net new service-providing jobs for each net new goods-producing job.  While none of the regions are projected to decline in service-providing industries, seven of the regions have projected declines in goods-producing industries.  The largest projected declines in goods-producing industries are for Greensboro (-1,880), Hickory (-1,629), and Raleigh-Durham (-1,101) while the largest projected gains in goods-producing industries can be seen in Charlotte (14,395), Wilmington (2,005), and Asheville (1,520).

There are some super-sector industries whose rates help explain the larger trends underlying any growth in goods-producing and service-providing sectors.  For instance, Construction in Charlotte (2.42% AGR), Pinehurst-Rockingham (1.74% AGR), and Wilmington (1.68% AGR) strongly contributes to the growth in the goods-providing domain in these regions.  Likewise, Professional and Business Services in Asheville (2.30% AGR), Wilmington (2.08% AGR), and Raleigh-Durham (1.68% AGR), as well as Leisure and Hospitality in Waynesville-Franklin (1.85% AGR), Charlotte (1.68% AGR), and Wilmington (1.66% AGR) strongly contribute to the growth in the service-providing domain in these regions.

Growing Sectors 

As mentioned above, service-providing industries are projected to grow across the state, but which sectors (NAICS 2-digit industries) are primed to grow and where?  The table below shows the sectors within regions that are projected to grow with a minimum of 2.0% Annualized Growth Rate:

Area Name Industry Employment Estimate 2017 Employment Estimate 2026 Net Change Annualized Growth Rate (%)
Wilmington Management of Companies & Enterprises 622 850 228 3.53
Asheville Admin. & Support & Waste Management & Remediation Services 9,861 12,673 2,812 2.83
Charlotte Arts, Entertainment, & Recreation 24,612 31,378 6,766 2.74
Charlotte Construction 58,630 72,693 14,063 2.42
Waynesville-Franklin Arts, Entertainment, & Recreation 4,851 5,989 1,138 2.37
Wilmington Admin. & Support & Waste Management & Remediation Services 8,745 10,638 1,893 2.20
Greensboro Admin. & Support & Waste Management & Remediation Services 33,221 40,162 6,941 2.13
Wilmington Educational Services 12,237 14,630 2,393 2.00

The largest growing sectors within the regions are found in the population centers of Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte, with Health Care and Social Assistance leading the way in both regions with growth of 21,785 and 15,966, respectively.  Of the 22 sectors within regions projected to grow more than 5,000 jobs, only 3 are located outside of Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte: Administrative & Support Services in Greensboro (+6,941), and Health Care and Social Assistance in Greensboro (+5,714) and Asheville (+5,418).

Several sectors are projected to grow in all 16 regions:

  • Real Estate & Rental & Leasing- ranging from an AGR of 0.05% for Greensboro to an AGR of 1.30% for Wilmington.
  • Health Care & Social Assistance- ranging from an AGR of 0.03% for Rocky Mount-Wilson to an AGR of 1.91% for Wilmington.
  • Accommodation & Food Services- ranging from an AGR of 0.49% for Elizabeth City to 1.67% for Wilmington.

The Health Care & Social Assistance and Administrative & Support Services are two particularly interesting growth sectors.  

Nine of the 16 regions across the state have Health Care & Social Assistance as their top growth sector in terms of number of net positions.  Statewide, it’s the fastest growing sector.  However, no region has Health Care & Social Assistance as its fastest growing sector.  The top projected numerical growth of this sector speaks partly to the general size of this sector across many regions: all but two regions have this sector as the largest or second largest sector in the region (Jacksonville-New Bern has it as its 4th largest while Elizabeth City has it as its 5th largest).  

The projected rate of change shows a more nuanced picture.  Although almost half of the regions (7) have this in the top 5 fastest projected growing industries, and all but two regions have Health Care & Social Assistance in their top 7 fastest growing industries.  Goldsboro-Kinston is projected to only grow at a 0.05% annualized growth rate, which ranks 13th among sectors in the region.  This modest rate reflects the projected decline in Nursing and Residential Care Facilities in the area.  If we look further into the QCEW data since 2000 for the counties in this region, Health Care & Social Assistance has been declining in all four counties, with the number of establishments in 2017 below levels seen earlier in the decade.  Breaking this out to more detailed industries within the sector, the losses are across the board.  Only Ambulatory Health Care Services seems to show limited growth in Greene and Wayne counties. 

Waynesville-Franklin is projected to grow at a 0.33% annualized growth rate, which is ranked 14th among sectors in the region.  In Waynesville-Franklin, this is reflective of the projected declines in employment in both Hospitals and Nursing & Residential Care Facilities.  If we look into the QCEW data in this sector from 2007 to 2017 as seen in the QCEW data for the Southwestern WDB, we see a modest decline in this sector (8,679 to 8,515 respectively) driven by a decline in Hospital employment.

Administrative & Support & Waste Management & Remediation Services (Admin Services) is among the top 5 fastest growing industries in 11 of the 16 regions across the state, including the fastest in 5 regions.  Among those with projected declines, Rocky Mount-Wilson’s projected decline appears to be underway.  The other four regions seem to tell a different story that is exemplified in our new methodology.  Jacksonville-New Bern, Pinehurst-Rockingham, Boone-Wilkesboro, and Charlotte showed strong growth in Administrative & Support Services from 2016-2017, but a decline (or very modest growth in the case of Charlotte) over the long-term.  This indicates an over-sized portion of the projected growth to 2026 may have already occurred.  


Manufacturing continues to play a vital role in our state economy despite its steep decline across the United States over the 1990s and 2000s.  Statewide, we have a modest projected decline, and the regional trends bear this out.  A slight majority of regions (9 of 16) have projected declines in Manufacturing, with the largest projected declines mentioned above, and the largest percentage declines in Elizabeth City (-0.51% AGR), Boone-Wilkesboro (-0.46% AGR), and Raleigh-Durham (-0.42% AGR).  Manufacturing is projected to grow modestly in the Southeast Prosperity Zone with all three sub-regions projecting increases (Wilmington 0.82% AGR, Jacksonville-New Bern 0.76% AGR, and Goldsboro-Kinston 0.37% AGR).

Manufacturing sub-sectors sized 500 and above with the strongest regional projected growth rates (above 1.0% AGR) include:

  • Plastics and Rubber Products in Rocky Mount-Wilson, Goldsboro-Kinston, and Winston-Salem
  • Fabricated Metal Products in Goldsboro-Kinston and Jacksonville-New Bern
  • Electrical Equipment, Appliance, and Components in Charlotte, Jacksonville-New Bern, and Winston-Salem
  • Wood Products in Pinehurst-Rockingham and Charlotte
  • Beverage and Tobacco Products in Asheville
  • Miscellaneous in Goldsboro-Kinston
  • Transportation Equipment in Wilmington, Winston-Salem, and Asheville
  • Chemical in Fayetteville-Lumberton
  • Primary Metal in Greenville
  • Machinery in Greenville and Raleigh-Durham
  • Food in Hickory

Selected manufacturing sub-sectors sized 500 or above that are projected to decline below a -1.0% AGR include:

  • Beverage and Tobacco Products in Winston-Salem
  • Apparel in Greensboro and Winston-Salem
  • Textile Product Mills in Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh-Durham
  • Textile Mills in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Hickory, Raleigh-Durham, and Greensboro
  • Paper in Greenville
  • Transportation Equipment in Greenville and Elizabeth City
  • Computer and Electronic Products in Hickory, Greensboro, and Asheville
  • Printing and Related Support in Hickory and Raleigh-Durham
  • Nonmetallic Mineral Products in Asheville, Raleigh-Durham, and Fayetteville-Lumberton
  • Chemical in Rocky Mount-Wilson and Raleigh-Durham

Declining Sectors 

Given the overall findings thus far, it is not surprising to find that there are considerably fewer sectors that are projected to decline than grow.  Even Mining, which was projected to decline the greatest percentage statewide has modest projected growth in three regions.  

Selected non-manufacturing declining industries sized 500 and above and regions that are projected to decline below a -1.0% AGR include:

  • Electronics and Appliance Stores in Wilmington, Raleigh-Durham, and Hickory
  • Utilities in Greensboro
  • Clothing and Clothing Accessories Stories in Rocky Mount-Wilson, Greenville, Winston-Salem, and Hickory
  • Truck Transportation in Goldsboro-Kinston
  • Repair and Maintenance in Boone-Wilkesboro
  • Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods in Goldsboro-Kinston
  • Credit Intermediation and Related Activities in Boone-Wilkesboro, Goldsboro-Kinston, Jacksonville-New Bern, and Greensboro.


Overall, while there is variation across regions and industries, we see generally projected growth through 2026, particularly in service-providing industries like Health Care & Social Assistance, Accommodation & Food Services, and Real Estate.  While the largest population areas, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, expect to see the greatest gains in jobs, strong rates of employment growth exist in several smaller MSAs as well, such as Wilmington and Asheville.  These regions and industries will likely continue to thrive as our population both grows and ages.

1The sum of the sub-state employment projections do not sum up to the state-wide employment projections as the sets of projections are conducted at different times, and we do not assign employment that is not associated with a particular sub-state geography to a region to have the numbers balance out.