The Wake Jobs Picture: In Context Part 2

In the last commentary, we looked at the relationship between Wake County’s growing labor force, growing jobs, employment, and the unemployment rate. During the last 11 years, as North Carolina’s job growth has stalled, Wake County has led all counties in both labor force and employment growth. Wake also enjoys the lowest unemployment rate among North Carolina’s most populous counties.

Great news, but looking at the cumulative numbers masks the tumultuous shifts that both North Carolina and the counties in the Research Triangle Region have undergone. Where did we lose jobs? Where are the new jobs coming from? Are government jobs driving the growth? What is the quality of the jobs?

First, why should anyone care, a job is a job. Understanding the trends allows the Wake County Economic Development staff to adjust their activities and plan for future needs. One of the first questions that is usually asked is whether all this job growth has just been the government adding jobs. Using the same period, from 2000 through the end of 2011, public sector jobs in Wake County rose by 11.4 percent. During the same period, private jobs grew by 16.7 percent. Private sector jobs now represent 83.3% of all
Wake County jobs. The quality of the jobs, as measured by average wages has also improved. For private sector jobs, annual wages grew by more than 8% above the rate of inflation.

Compared to all of North Carolina, Wake County wages grew by a slower rate between 2000-2011. But, as you might expect, Wake wages remain higher overall.

                           Private Sector State 
Wake Co. Wage Growth       8.3% 4.5% 0.80%
NC Wage Growth             12.5% 4.8% 3.30%

The composition of Wake jobs changed dramatically during the period, in many cases reflecting a rapidly changing national and state economy. At the state level, North Carolina saw the loss of over 320,000 (-43%) manufacturing jobs, about 63,000 construction jobs (-27%), and saw big percentage losses in agriculture (-21%), information (-18%) and transportation & warehousing (-14%). These losses were off-set by big gains in health (+39%), professional services (+35%), education (+33%), accommodations & food services (+22%), and finance and insurance (+18%). Collectively, these five sectors grew by 31% and added about 386,000 jobs, more than negating the 383,000 lost in manufacturing and construction. While many of the lost and gained jobs were comparable in wages, the skills and education needed for the jobs is very different.

North Carolina Average Annual Wage by Sector
Manufacturing                                   $ 56,581
Construction                                     $ 41,694
Finance & Insurance                          $101,131
Professional/Tech Services                 $ 68,405
Educati on Services                           $ 38,708
Health Services                                 $ 43,437

Wake County saw big gains in health, education and professional services, as well as in finance and insurance and arts and entertainment. The charts below show how dramatically the economy has shifted. Wake County faired better in the sectors where the state saw the biggest losses, even showing a slight gain in construction
from 2000-2011.

Job Sector Shift

In the sectors where North Carolina experienced growth, Wake County grew faster.

Job Sector Shift WC

As we dig down a little further, the changes in Wake County manufacturing jobs have been even more dramatic than the cumulative loss of just under 10,000 jobs. Many of the manufacturing jobs that created the “high-tech” brand for the Research Triangle and other regions of the country have been lost to globalization and efficiency—especially in the information technology and communication industries.

                                            2000 Jobs 2011 Jobs Percent Change
Cut and Sew Apparel Manufacturing 724 315 -56%
Printing & Related Activities 1,712 790 -54%
Pharmaceutical & Medical Manufacturing 1,472 1,138 -29%
Plastics Product Manufacturing 1,062 560 -47%
Computers & Peripheral Equipment 2,079 710 -66%
Communications Equipment Manufacturing 2,795 1,148 -59%
Semiconductor & Electronic Components 1,638 689 -58%
Electronic Instrument Manufacturing 1,715 1,810 6%
Electronic Equipment Manufacturing 3,035 1,893 -38%
Medical Equipment Manuf.                    377 952 153%

Other sub-sectors that have been changed by business practices, efficiencies, and customer migrations include: scheduled air service down 2,137 jobs and by 53%; newspaper and book publishers, down 903 jobs and 42%; and radio and television broadcasting, down 343 jobs and 37%.

However, since we know that Wake County led the state in job creation, the shifting job market obviously resulted in some big winners.


2000 Jobs

2011 Jobs

Percent Change

Software Publishers




Wired Communications Carrier




Depository Credit Intermediation




Legal/ Accounting/ Architecture




Computer Systems Design




Management & Technical Consulting




Scientific Research




Medical & Surgical Hospitals




Medical & Diagnostic Labs




It is hard to get your arms around so many moving parts. For most of our recent history this area was known for computers, mobile phones, communications equipment, and semiconductors. The last ten years saw major reductions in those industries. We are faced with reimagining what it means to be a high-tech region. Maybe this will help. The job gains in Wake County in four sub-sectors—Computer Systems Design, Software Publishing, Technical Consulting, and Scientific Research—total more new jobs than all the manufacturing job losses combined since 2000.

Many of these jobs are in the Wake County economic development targeted clusters of advanced medical technologies, interactive software, and software/IT. The quality of these emerging sector jobs is very high. Average salaries for the four sub-sectors is over $92,000 annually.

In the third part of this four-part series, we will look at how the changes in corporate structures, business location criteria, and global shift s are impacting the Wake County job market.

Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce
800 S. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

Wake County Economic Development
800 S. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

Southern Growth Policies Board
P.O. Box 12293
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709


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