New Report Shows Cary-Raleigh-Morrisville As Top-Ranking Region

Cary, NC – With low unemployment and wage growth that outpaces most cities, the Cary-Raleigh-Morrisville economy stands out in North Carolina. But a recent study shows the region is even more exceptional, ranking second out of all American metropolitan areas for performance in 2017.

Second in the Nation

In a new report by the Milken Institute, the Raleigh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes Cary and Morrisville as well as other surrounding towns and smaller cities, ranked second in a nationwide study of best-performing large cities. The Raleigh MSA beat out significant cities and regions such as Dallas, Austin and San Francisco.

The study showed a number of areas where the Raleigh MSA stood out in wage growth, concentration of high-tech industries and job growth. In particular, the region ranked fourth in the nation when it came to short-term job growth.

The Raleigh MSA’s nationwide rankings, according to the Milken Institute’s study

The local region has also seen a steep increase in its standings in the yearly Milken Institute report, moving from sixth place in 2016 to second place in the 2017 report. The Raleigh MSA was only beat out by the Provo-Otem MSA in Utah, which was in second place last year. The Provo-Otem MSA ranks first in job growth and third in wage growth.

The Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia area also ranked quite highly, coming in at 13th nationwide.

What Drives Performance

In the Milken Institute’s report, high-tech industries are a generator for the Raleigh MSA’s performance, but it credits Triangle universities and North Carolina State University in particular for catalyzing that industry. The study cites Cary-based SAS as an example of a local economic generator that “spun out” of the university system.

Other local industries cited in the study are the Credit Suisse expansions in Morrisville and RTP that were announced last year. The study also credits low costs of doing business in the Raleigh MSA as compared to other parts of the country, as it also points to high rent costs and wages in San Francisco and other large “tech hubs” as reasons those areas are not ranking as highly.

The Milken Institute report does contain one warning about the local area, suggesting rapid growth could overwhelm and damage infrastructure.


Story by staff repots. Table by the Milken Institute. Photos by Hal Goodtree.

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