Economic momentum continues to build throughout the Raleigh-Durham region. Even as growth has ramped up nationwide, the Triangle region remains one of the fastest-growing areas in the country. National real GDP growth will likely end 2018 at 2.9%, backed by robust consumer spending and fiscal stimulus. We anticipate growth to moderate slightly to a still-solid 2.6% rate in 2019, as some of these tailwinds fade. The Raleigh-Durham area will continue to play a starring role in the national economic growth story, given the area’s booming tech and life sciences clusters which continue to attract new businesses and residents to the area. Raleigh ranks as the 8th fastest growing major metropolitan area in terms of real GDP growth from 2011 to 2017. The combined statistical area has added 240,000 residents during this period, lifting its population to 2.2 million. The region’s economic success is most clearly evident in the Triangle’s labor market. Both the Raleigh-Cary and Durham-Chapel Hill metro areas have seen their unemployment rates fall over the course of the past year and now sit well below the national rate at 3.1% and 3.2%, respectively. This comes as no surprise as the region has also been adding jobs at a pace well above the rest of the country. As of November, Raleigh payrolls have surged 3.2% year-over-year, propelled in large part by a booming tech industry. Job growth in Durham was slightly more moderate, but still grew 2.0%, which is ahead of the 1.7% growth seen nationwide. We suspect Durham’s slightly more modest expansion may also be underestimating growth. The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which is a more complete accounting of payrolls and lags the monthly survey data by six months, shows significantly stronger job growth in Durham’s key education & health and professional & business services sectors, suggesting the preliminary estimates of job growth will be revised higher to a rate more consistent with neighboring Raleigh. Furthermore, overall employment growth in both metro areas has accelerated more recently, making the prospects for growth throughout 2019 increasingly bright.
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Source: Wells Fargo Economics Group