Editor’s note: This story is one a special report on North Carolina’s “job conundrum.” As hiring continues and economic recruiting brings more jobs to the state, where is the talent to meet the demand? And even more jobs are needed as the population grows.

RALEIGH – Will there be enough talent to fill new jobs coming to North Carolina? Or meet the requirements created by a growing population?

Those aren’t easy questions to answer.

North Carolina is experiencing population growth, so much so that it will receive a 14th U.S. Congressional seat.  The state’s population increased by a net of nearly 900,000 people between 2010 and 2020, or roughly 90,000 per year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

More granular data has yet to be released, but when it is, it will be factored in by the North Carolina General Assembly as it redraws the state’s legislative maps.

The data that is available, from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Sample, reveals that North Carolina has seen a 9 percent increase in the share of the population considered to be in prime working years, 45-64, seven percentage points higher than the national average, between 2010 and 2019.  North Carolina has also seen a similar difference in the population of people over the age of 65, with an increase between 2010 and 2019 of 41 percent in the state compared with 34 percent nationally. Young adults, or those aged 18-24, increased by 7 percent in North Carolina, but decreased nationally by 2 percent, during that time period, or a change of 9 percent.


This is also data that will be seen by companies considering expanding in or relocating to the state of North Carolina, says Chris Chung of North Carolina’s Economic Development Partnership,  due to population size and demographics often being equated to a potential talent pool.

There are only three ways that growing demand for workers can be satisfied, said UNC-Chapel Hill finance professor Greg Brown.

  • First, companies could hire new people entering the labor market, whether that’s due to graduating from high school, college or university, or re-entering the job market after choosing to sit out during the height of the global coronavirus pandemic.

“Schools and colleges need to better understand the workforce needs and strive more to help their students gain those skills,” said York. “These employers should expand internship opportunities so that students and schools will have better information on the needed skills.”

  • Second, companies could hire people who are in currently seeking to be or are already in the labor market but who are are also unemployed or underemployed.

But this could take a while, as there still exists a skills mismatch, he added.

“Many of the needs are in jobs that require specific skills that are obtained through education or on-the-job training,” he noted.  “This doesn’t happen overnight, so it will take awhile for workers to shift into the most high-demand industries and satisfy the labor needs of those companies.”

One solution, suggests Meredith professor Anne York, is that companies could invest in their training budgets, then look for employees who would align well with their company and culture but may only currently possess capacity to conduct around 80 percent of a stated job function.  Those potential employees, said York, would be capable of doing the work with additional training, and companies could make that investment.

  • Third, companies could hire and import or relocate workers from other geographic areas.

“A significant percentage of the new jobs will likely be taken by newcomers to the state,” predicted NC State economist Mike Walden.  “There is an expectation there will be geographic re-sorting of the national population after the pandemic,” he said. “I expect North Carolina will be on the receiving side of this re-sorting.”

The ACS PUMS data shows that the percentage change in households moving to North Carolina from other states from 2010 to 2019 is highest for those over the age of 65, with a 103 percent change, for 35-44 year olds, with a 47 percent change, and for 25-34 year olds, with a 35 percent change.

“The data shows that more people moved in North Carolina between 2010-2019 compared to most of the other states across the country,” said Nadia Evangelou, a senior economist with the National Association of REALTORS, who tracks migration patterns, and was consulted by WRAL TechWire.  “According to IRS data, the number of people who moved in North Carolina rose by 30% compared to 19% which is the average growth of in-migrants across the country.”

In the aggregate, the boost in net migration to North Carolina deepens our talent pool, said Chung, and this is a benefit for North Carolina compared to other states.

People of working age, across a lot of sectors, are coming to North Carolina, he stressed. “They’ll either come here for university, or come for a career opportunity.”

Positive net migration shows companies that the talent pool is deepening, said Chung, “so there’s a deeper pool from which employers can hire from, but if people are moving here, it also suggests to an employer that it could be easier to recruit somebody to move here compared to any of the other 49 states.”