North Carolina’s life science jobs continue to grow at more than triple the national average, pushing the total number of people employed in the sector statewide above 70,000 for the first time.

The numbers are part of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s State Initiatives Report 2016, conducted by TEConomy and released at the BIO 2016 International Convention Tuesday.

The report shows job growth across the nation of 2.2 percent from 2012 to 2014. North Carolina’s jobs grew by 6.6 percent to 70,466 during that time.

North Carolina continues to be strong in drugs and pharmaceuticals; research, testing and medical laboratories; and agricultural feedstock and chemicals. The state is marginally specialized in bioscience related distribution. Jobs in the medical device segment shrunk by 3.5 percent.

Counting Jobs: Data source

TEConomy’s report is based on a proprietary set of NAICS codes and data provided by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. NCBiotech’s library maintains a tighter definition of life science companies, resulting in our count of 63,000 employees, compared with TEConomy’s 70,000.

Overall, the state’s location quotient, a measure of specialization in life science, is 1.46. This puts North Carolina among the 10 most specialized states. Three of the state’s metropolitan statistical areas reflect high life science specialization. Greensboro/High Point joins Durham/Chapel Hill as one of six MSAs with specialization in four areas of life science. Raleigh is one of 25 MSAs with specialization in three areas.

Other areas strong in at least one segment of life science include Fayetteville (Agriculture), Rocky Mount (Drugs and Pharmaceuticals), Greenville (Drugs and Pharmaceuticals), Burlington (#1 small MSA in research, testing and medical labs), Hickory/Lenoir/Morganton (Distribution), and Wilmington (research, testing and medical labs).

Here’s how North Carolina’s overall life science sector stacks up by segment:

Drugs and Pharmaceuticals

  • 3.4 percent job growth to 21,658
  • 2.54 times more specialized than the average state
  • Employment multiplier: 11.4

Research, Testing and Medical Laboratories

  • 18.5 percent job growth to 23,282
  • 1.66 times more specialized than average
  • Employment multiplier: 3.2

Agriculture Chemicals and Feedstocks

  • 3,116 jobs, 4.7 percent decline
  • 1.38 more specialized than average
  • Employment multiplier: 17.7


  • 13,864 employees, 3.4 percent growth
  • 1.05 more specialized than average
  • Employment multiplier: 3.0


  • 8,545 employees, 1.5 percent decline
  • .84 times less specialized than average
  • Employment multiplier: 4.5

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center