Unemployment in the Triangle area does not reflect the broader weakness of North Carolina’s economy due to the region’s knowledge economy, officials said.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce released economic reports through August 2012 showing that the unemployment rates for the Durham-Chapel Hill area stand at 7.6 percent, the lowest of the major metropolitan areas in the state. Unemployment statewide ranks at 9.7 percent, the fifth highest in the nation.
“We continue to see development in this area because it is a knowledge and technology driven region,” said Charles Hayes, president and CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership. “Nowhere else in the world do you have three top research universities in such a close proximity.”
The report cited Durham County’s unemployment rate at 8.0 percent, down from 9.0 in August 2011. This was the tenth lowest rate of the state.
Hayes noted that the reputation of the Triangle as an international center for knowledge and innovation will continue to draw in new residents and businesses. Since there are many people that want to live in this area, there will be many opportunities for work.
He added that with more than 20,000 new college graduates in the area each year, the job market has been forced to adapt to accommodate to their growing careers and lifestyles. The skilled workers spur demand for housing developments and commercial spaces like restaurants.
The Triangle area consistently represented counties with rates much lower than the state average. Orange, Chatham and Wake Counties all recorded less than 7.7 percent unemployment.
“The Triangle is fortunate in that it contains a tremendous diversity of employment opportunities ranging in industries in areas such as health care, education, clinical trials, technology and a growing number of venture and startup opportunities,” wrote Vice President of Administration Kyle Cavanaugh, who handles human resources and employment policy at Duke, in an email Monday.
Hayes credited some of the continued success of the job market in the Triangle to the ongoing efforts the region’s “triple helix model.”
This model for promoting business growth and competition focuses on uniting three areas—government, academics and business—in order to continue developing techonology and creating jobs.
Within the Triangle region, Duke, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are the largest employers. Duke, including its health system, is the largest employer in Durham County. It is also the second largest private employer in the state.
“Duke continues to be considered an outstanding employer, and we have individuals from our local communities to around the globe interesting in working with us,” Cavanaugh said. “We track our application flow very closely. Currently we are averaging nearly 14,000 individuals applying for work at Duke every month.”
Unemployment dropped in 72 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, compared to July statistics.
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