RALEIGH – North Carolina is projected to add more than 300,000 jobs through 2028 with demand for highly skilled talent growing fasts – but the projected growth rate of 6% falls short of the expected 10.3% expansion of the state’s population.

And the state’s manufacturing sector is projected to take a big hit, losing more than 19,000 jobs over the next seven years.

Economist Dr. Mike Walden says the 300,000 job figure is likely not enough to meet demand for a growing population.

“[T]he projection for 300,000 additional jobs from 2018 to 2028 does not keep up with projections for the increase in the working-age population ( ages 18-62) over the same time period (430,000),” Walden told WRAL TechWire. “However, with the declining birth rate, the 430,000 increase may turn out to be high.  Even so, the 300,000 job increase should be kept in perspective to the increase in workers, with the conclusion being the 300,000 may not be enough.”

The big job magnets will continue to be big metros. Most jobs will continue to be created in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham (72%). Charlotte is projected to add nearly 137,000 jobs, Raleigh-Durham more than 97,000.

The Department of Commerce and Gov. Roy Cooper disclosed the latest job projections on Tuesday and put a positive spin on the data from the Labor & Economic Analysis Division (LEAD) at Commerce.

“We have strong momentum creating thousands of good new jobs in North Carolina because of our world class workforce and high quality of life,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “By projecting our expected growth, we can better recruit new industries and continue to educate and train our people to succeed as our state thrives.”

Through May, more than 4.75 million North Carolinians were working, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics with an unemployment rate of just under 5% as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic.

To maintain or lower that rate, however, the state needs more jobs than Commerce expects to keep up with projected rates in population growth.

North Carolina’s population is expected to rise to 11.7 million by 2030 from the current 10.6 million – an increase of more than 1 million people or a net growth of 10.3 percent. That’s according to projections from the North Carolina Office of State Management and Budget.

As manufacturing jobs decline, demand will increase for jobs requiring more education with master’s, doctoral and professional degrees, the Commerce report says. Here’s the breakdown by job category:

NC Department of Commerce graphic

The growing number of advanced degree jobs reflects in part North Carolina’s continuing success at landing high-tech and life science jobs projects such as a new Apple campus, a Google engineering operation, more expansion by Fidelity and more than $2 billion in announced life science projects.

Walden concurs that education and technology will grow increasingly important – and impacting on what workers may be displaced.

“A universal forecast by economists is technology will become an increasing important component of the future workforce.  Some of this technology will enhance workers, but other technology will substitute for workers,” Walden explained. “The forecasts suggest this substitution impact will take place in manufacturing, agriculture, and – to some degree – in wholesale and retail trade, likely due to better logistics and on-line buying.  Conversely, humans are difficult to replace with technology in health care and leisure/hospitality, where large job gains are foreseen. Still, technology and its positive and negative impacts on employment are the big “wild cards” for the future labor force.”

Walden also says what type of education will be needed has to be explored.

“While the forecasts imply education beyond high school will become more important, there is the question of what kind of education.  I foresee the need for more short-term focused education and training programs, most of which will take less than four years, and many which will be accomplished in a year or less,” he said.  “An evaluation of the specific types of post-high school education programs we need for the future labor market should be a high priority for the state.”

The jobs report is published every two years.

Here’s the jobs breakdown by occupation:

NC Department of Commerce graphic

A detailed summary of the employment projections is available onlline.

NC Department of Commerce graphic