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Wilmington Slides In Annual Economic Survey

By Jenny Callison, posted Feb 6, 2024
After a year ranked among the 10 best-performing areas in the U.S., Wilmington's MSA fell in the rankings in the Milken Institute’s annual survey.
Milken’s 2024 Best Performing Cities report, which the nonprofit economic think tank released Tuesday, pegged the Raleigh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) at second among large cities in the country, behind only the Austin, Texas MSA. The Wilmington MSA, after rising to 7th last year, fell to 21st in the new report. Wilmington ranked 21st in 2022 as well.
The criteria by which each metropolitan area is evaluated include job growth, wage growth, high-tech GDP and the concentration of high-tech employers, household broadband access, housing affordability, community resilience and income inequality. Along with job opportunities, wage growth and housing, the Milken Institute evaluates quality of life issues such as an area’s emergency readiness and its preparations to deal with climate change. The smaller the number ranking on each criterion, the better a city is doing, according to Milken.
Areas in which Wilmington performed well were wage growth since 2017 (a ranking of 10) and job growth since 2017 (21). But short-term job growth (160) and housing affordability (119) weighed on the Wilmington MSA’s relative performance, the report stated. The area did not score well in terms of income inequality (74), household broadband access (62), high-tech employer concentration (64) or high-tech GDP growth since 2017 (64), although the report noted that growth has made gains in the last couple of years.
By comparison, Raleigh – which moved up one notch from its number-three 2023 ranking – scored well in multi-year job growth (8), multi-year wage growth (6) and high-tech concentration (9). Its resilient household rank was 23, compared to Wilmington’s 43, and its housing affordability rank of 38 was significantly better than Wilmington’s.
“Raleigh’s high position is bolstered by its performance on wage, job, and high-tech concentration measures, as well as its strong position on all other metrics in the BPC ranking,” the Milken report stated. “Indeed, Raleigh places in the top quartile of every indicator on the index. The area has managed to attract high-tech firms and high-quality talent, driven by its proximity to three major universities located in Raleigh and the neighboring Durham–Chapel Hill metro areas: North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

It's important to note that comparisons of the Wilmington MSA's 2024 performance with those of the past two years may not be apples-to-apples. Until Brunswick County was added back into the Wilmington MSA in mid-2023 after an absence of about 10 years, MSA data reflected only New Hanover and Pender counties.
Other North Carolina “large city” metro areas showed mixed performances, with the Charlotte MSA landing at No. 10, just ahead of the Charleston, South Carolina MSA. Other state metro areas fell below Wilmington on the list: The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area was ranked 36th, Asheville was 61st, Winston-Salem was 86th, Greensboro-High Point was 164th and Fayetteville was 180th.
The complete report can be found here.
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