Supporters of the North Carolina life sciences industries often tout that business sector as crucial to the state’s economic health. And a new report affirms that belief, pointing out that N.C. life science jobs increased 7 percent to more than 66,000 through 2012 while wages grew even faster – up nearly 13 percent to almost $82,000.

“North Carolina’s bioscience industry is large, growing, and highly specialized with a diverse set of niche strengths,” says the report from Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Battelle research firm.

“The state industry employed more than 66,000 in 2012 while operating 2,881 business establishments.”

Meanwhile, the entire state private sector saw jobs decline 4.9 percent to 3.2 million in the wake of the recession.

The private sector average wage is $43,028.

According to the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, the life science sector as a whole helps produce 237,000 jobs statewide with an economic impact of $59 billion. 

The number of biotech and life science establishments surged 57.4 percent, according to the report, no doubt reflecting an upsurge in startups.

Based on individual metrics, North Carolina ranks in the first quintile across nine separate categories and second in the other.

Reports in the past have noted that North Carolina’s life science “cluster” – based largely in the Research Triangle area – ranks as one of the nation’s largest.

Nationally, life science employment has increased 7.4 percent, or 110,000, over the last decade to 1.62 million, the report says. Economic growth among biotech and pharmaceutical firms grew 17 percent since 2007, which the report says is twice the overall national average, 

The BIO-Battelle report, which was released at the BIO  convention in San Diego where North Carolina has sent a large delegation, reflects the state’s diverse biotech and pharmaceutical impact.  

“The state has a specialization in three of the five major subsectors—drugs and pharmaceuticals, agricultural feedstock and
chemicals, and research, testing, and medical labs,” the report notes.

“North Carolina is among the top tier across all states in key measures of bioscience R&D and innovation including in academic R&D, NIH [National Institutes of Health] research funding, and venture capital investments.

“State bioscience firms have seen an increase in [venture capital] funding in recent years and since 2009 have received $1.2 billion in investments.”

Venture capital investments helped several North Carolina biotech firms go public over the past two years.

The full report can be read online.