Talent – The Big Picture in NC, SC, & VA

It’s all about talent. It has been all about talent for a while, and it will continue to be all about talent for the foreseeable future. We compared MSAs in NC, SC, and VA, our primary consulting market, to see who has the most available labor, most skilled workforce, highest concentrations of manufacturing workers, and the most robust talent pipeline. Some of the findings may surprise you.

If it is a fast-growing labor force a company is after, it should look at Raleigh, NC, growing almost 16% in the last six years. Other fast-growing regional labor markets are Hilton Head, SC (14.1%), Charlotte, NC (13.6%), Wilmington, NC (11.6%), and Charleston, SC (11.5%).

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Regions with the largest labor force decline are Rocky Mount, NC (-7.9%), Bristol, VA (-4.8%), and Goldsboro, NC (-4.8%).

We also looked at employment growth. In this category, Raleigh, NC (20.9%) edges out Charlotte, NC (20.6%), the only two to go over 20% employment growth, 2012-2018. While nine MSAs showed negative labor force growth, only three MSAs have negative employment growth (Bristol, VA, Goldsboro, NC, and Rocky Mount, NC).

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The tightest labor markets, based on the lowest unemployment rates, can be found in Charlottesville, VA, Winchester, VA, and Charleston, SC. South Carolina and Virginia have MSAs with unemployment rates below 3%.  If a company wants to go to a place with a slightly higher unemployment rate, they should look at North Carolina where seven of the MSAs have rates above 4%. Only three MSAs in South Carolina are at or above 4% (Sumter, Myrtle Beach, and Augusta (the MSA includes some SC counties)). Virginia didn’t have any MSAs with unemployment rates above 4%, indicating it has the tightest labor market overall.

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If manufacturing companies want to seek out growing, manufacturing-rich labor markets, Winston-Salem, NC is the place to be. It had the largest increase in manufacturing employment 2012-2018 (65.3%). Charlotte, NC has the second fastest growing manufacturing workforce and Greenville, SC, third. Blacksburg, VA has the fastest growing employment in Information, and Harrisonburg, VA is the leader in Professional Services employment growth.

Chart by Visualizer
Chart by Visualizer
Chart by Visualizer

Educational attainment is one indicator of workforce skill and preparedness. The Washington MSA leads the way in the percentage of the population over the age of 25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher at 51.2%. In North Carolina, the region with the highest percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher is Durham. In South Carolina, it’s Hilton Head. Those regions with the most workforce development need, as indicated by the lowest percent with a high school education, are Rocky Mount, NC, Augusta-Richmond, GA (including some SC counties), and Winchester, VA.

Semi-skilled workers, with some college or an associate’s degree, are concentrated in military regions in North Carolina in Jacksonville and Fayetteville. Same in South Carolina with the highest concentration in Sumter. In Virginia, Winchester leads the way with 34.4% with some college or an associate’s degree.

Many of those semi-skilled and associate’s degreed workers have been through the community and technical college systems of the three states. In North Carolina, Wake Tech (Raleigh) and Central Piedmont (Charlotte) produce the most graduates. Trident Tech in Charleston turns out 1,700 graduates a year followed by Greenville (SC) Tech and Midlands Tech (Columbia) at around 1,200 graduates a year each. Northern Virginia Community College (Washington) outpaces all of the colleges with over 5,400 graduates. The second most graduates in Virginia comes out of Tidewater Community College (Norfolk).

If companies want to be close to universities that graduate thousands each year, they should locate near NC State University (9,100), University of South Carolina (8,200), and Liberty University (17,800). Other universities that exceed the 5,000 graduate mark are East Carolina, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, Duke, Clemson, George Mason, George Washington, James Madison, Old Dominion, UVA, Virginia Commonwealth, VA Tech, Georgetown, and Johns Hopkins.

WorkKeys is another indicator of workforce preparedness. Charlotte, NC has the most National Career Readiness Certificates at over 80,000. The next largest number can be found in Greenville, SC at 47,500. The fewest Career Readiness Certificates are in smaller Virginia regions: Roanoke, Lynchburg, Blacksburg, and Harrisonburg.

You can poke holes in this research – comparing MSAs of different sizes with different industry clusters and different workforce development assets. However, companies will often do just this – a blanket data review by MSA as one evolution tool in site selection. They may look at MSAs along an interstate corridor, comparing very different regions. We hope this will prompt you to do similar research on the regions with which you regularly compete. Find out how your region stacks up. Incorporate strengths in competitive position messaging and work on the weaknesses. This is what we do for our clients when we develop a strategic plan or competitive position analysis. If you want to talk about the research, shoot us an email or give us a call. We are data geeks and love to talk shop with other data geeks.


MSAs Researched:

  • North Carolina: Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, Raleigh, Greensboro-High Point, Winston-Salem, Durham-Chapel Hill, Asheville, Fayetteville, Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, Wilmington, Jacksonville, Greenville, Burlington, Rocky Mount, New Bern, and Goldsboro.
  • South Carolina: Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, Columbia, Charleston-North Charleston, Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, Spartanburg, Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, Florence, Sumter, and Augusta-Richmond.
  • Virginia: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Richmond, Roanoke, Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, and Harrisonburg.

Data Points: Educational attainment, labor force, unemployment, employment by industry, wages, commuting, community college and university enrollment and graduates, WorkKeys certification.

Time Frame: 2012, 2017 and 2018 with percent change calculated over six years.

Data Sources: ACT, ESRI, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and U.S. Census Bureau.

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