RALEIGH – Despite global uncertainty, 2019 is looking pretty good for Raleigh’s economic health.

At least, that’s what one expert is saying.

Speaking at the Raleigh Chamber’s 2019 Economic Forecast event this Thursday, Charlie Dougherty, Wells Fargo Securities’ vice president and economist, said he remains optimistic about the Oak City’s prospects, despite a predicted nationwide slowdown.

Charlie Dougherty, Wells Fargo Securities’ vice president and economist, speaking at the Raleigh Chamber’s 2019 Economic Forecast event this Thursday.

“Basically, since the end of the recession, Raleigh and Charlotte have both been on the top 15 of fastest growing metro areas, not just in North Carolina and the Southeast, but the entire country,” he told a crowd of around 500 gathered at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

“That’s really amazing to see.”

Raleigh’s employment growth

Among Raleigh’s strengths: strong employment growth. While the nation is hovering around 1.7 percent growth, Raleigh is growing faster at around 3.2 percent.

“Every data point that we look at, we see that North Carolina, Raleigh, all of these places are really a part of the national economic growth spurt,” Dougherty said.

“In 2018, we think when all the numbers finally get counted, Raleigh and Durham probably added about 28,000 new jobs to 2018. We think in 2019, they’ll add around 24,000 new jobs. That’s a strong number. That represents about 2.4 percent employment growth, much higher than the nation.”

But perhaps more importantly, that growth in North Carolina is broad-based with a lot of hiring across industries.

“Much like the national experience, a lot of growth lately has happened in industries where we haven’t seen it – like construction, manufacturing. Those types of industries are slowing starting to come back.”

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Interestingly, Durham-Chapel Hill is growing at a rate of 2 percent, but also experienced some deceleration at around a little less than 1 percent.

However, Dougherty didn’t seem overly concerned. “I would caution about reading too much into the Durham number,” he said. “Regional statistics tend to get revised pretty heavily. I think it’s actually probably much stronger in 2018. Overall, this area is growing much faster than the rest of the nation.”

Raleigh’s unemployment rate at 3.1 percent

Meanwhile, nation’s unemployment rate is at around 3.9 percent – a 50-year low. Raleigh’s is lower at 3.1 percent – and is expected to go even lower, predicted Dougherty.

The downside: employers are running out of people to hire.

Thankfully, there’s also an upshot. “The good thing about having a low unemployment rate, as the labor market tightens, wage growth picks up. At least, that’s what the economic theory would suggest. And we’re certainly seeing that in Raleigh. Wage growth is around 5 percent. “That’s really strong,” he said.

Population growth = Economic growth

Another thing working in Raleigh’s favor is its population, which keeps getting bigger by the day.

While population growth has slowed around the nation, Dougherty said around 2000 people move to Raleigh-Durham every month. That’s an average of about 60 new people every day.

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“In fact, North Carolina in 2018 was the 10th fastest growing state in the entire country. So we’re seeing a lot of new people move to NC, and Raleigh is on the receiving end of that,” said Dougherty.

“Overall, the future for Raleigh is incredibly bright. The strong population growth, the strong employment growth – all that is going to continue. Raleigh has all of the ingredients we need for successful economic growth.”