CHARLOTTE – North Carolina’s IT sector grew at a rate of 28.4 percent, twice the national average in 2017, and the future looks even brighter for the technology industry in NC, Ted Abernathy said at NCTech’s 2018 Outlook event in Charlotte Friday.

Abernathy, managing partner for Economic Leadership,  a consultancy that is currently working in more than a dozen states to develop economic strategies, said that NC unemployment leveled off at 4 percent, effectively, full employment. “I know it’s hard to find good labor now, but it’s going to get harder,” he warned.

Outlining key findings from the extensive 2018 NC Tech Outlook [NC Tech is the rebranding name for the North Carolina Technology Association] report, he said technology employment has spread throughout the state. While there is a high concentration in the urban areas of Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle, it’s also breaking out in Asheville, Wilmington, and “more counties than ever.”

The tech industry employed 239,000 people in the state in tech in 2017, accounting for 5.8 percent of the total jobs in the state, but 11 percent of the state’s total wage earnings and sales revenue of $82 billion.

The technology sector in North Carolina has an employment multiplier of 3.12, meaning that for every one job in the technology industry approximately two other jobs are supported in the state economy across all industries.

Ted Abernathy

Life sciences lead, energy slips

Of the four technology sectors, environmental, energy, life sciences and core IT, only energy slipped a little while all the other sectors showed robust growth. Life sciences, which lagged the last four years, had the most growth in 2017.

The tech sector created 2,500 new businesses. “It was a really good time for NC and the technology environment,” Abernathy said.

While NC’s diversified employment base means tech jobs put the state 26th in the nation in percentage of total employment, “We are the third fastest growing with only Michigan and Utah growing faster.”

NC boasts number one spots in a number of areas, including the number of women employed in tech, although Abernathy noted that at 36.5 percent, “There is room for improvement.” The same is true of minority employment, he added.

North Carolina had the 7th highest number of start-ups spin off from its universities in 2015 with 36 new companies established. The state’s universities remain “one of its aces” in economic development, Abernathy said.

Overall, NC’s rankings in tech sector growth, employment growth, average wage growth and expected growth are all very high. The state ranks in the top ten in many sectors and is not in the bottom third in any of the areas measured.

The state does have some weaknesses. “Access to startup capital has always been an issue,” Abernathy said. “Talent wars just over the horizon will get worse. The state needs to support its university system to meet demand. And political uncertainty remains a headwind.”

Nevertheless, Abernathy said, “Long-term projection: It keeps getting better.”

Additional findings in the report include:

Where NC Ranks among top 15 states

  • Percentage of women in tech workforce: 1
  • Expected tech sector employment growth: 2
  • Average annual wage for tech sector employees (with purchasing power added): 9
  • Median hour earnings adjusted for purchasing power: 5
  • Tech occupations growth (2011-2016): 6
  • Expected tech occupations growth: (to 2022): 7
  • IT (tech core) employment growth (2011-2016): 6

Education and tech infrastructure among top 15 states

  • Higher education in R&D and S&E fileds as percentage of GDP: 4
  • State spending per student for higher education: 7
  • Tech licenses and options executed from universities: 8
  • Startups from universities (2016): 8
  • Average in-state tuition cost: 8
  • Completed STEM education programs per 1,000 enrolled students: 14
  • Average number of new entrepreneurs (2016): 15

 Top tech jobs (2016)

  • Business operations specialists: 11,9  percent of total tech occupations at an hourly wage average of $31.34 and 3,586 annual job openings.
  • Software developers, applications: 8.3 percent at an average hourly wage of $45.72 and 2,535 annual openings.
  • Computer systems analysts: 7.9 percent at average annual wage of $42.89 and 2,360 annual openings.
  • Computer user support specialists: 7.6 percent at average hourly wage fo $23.06 with 2,209 openings.
  • Market research analysts and marketing specialists: 5.5 percent at average annual wage of $29.49 with 1,972 openings.
  • Management analysts: 5.4 percent at average annual hourly wage of $38.42 with 1,737 openings.
  • Computer and information systems managers: 4.2 percent at average hourly wage of $62.86 with 1,287 openings.
  • Network and computer systems administrators: 4 percent at an average hourly wage of $38.47 with 1,023 openings.
  • The rest of the job categories are all less than 3 percent of total tech jobs in the state.
  • The average hourly wage for all tech occupations is $37.45