Friday, March 27, 2009

Raleigh-Cary Tops Nation In Growth

Originally Posted to The News & Observer

The metropolitan area is home to more than 1 million people after growing by more than 4 percent from 2007 to 2008. But that is slower than in previous years.

As the national economy lost steam last year, the Raleigh area continued to attract residents, becoming the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country.

According to census numbers released today, the Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area, which includes Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties, grew by 4.3 percent from July 2007 to July 2008, and is now home to close to 1.1 million people. It well outpaced its closest rival, the Austin, Texas, area, which grew by 3.8 percent.

The national average was just under 1 percent.

The Triangle has been near the top of the nation's growth chart for more than a decade, as newcomers poured into the area to take jobs in technology, tourism and academia. The resulting building boom, and the jobs that came with it, drew hundreds of thousands of new residents.

Much changed in recent months as the economy fell into a deep recession. While the downturn took longer to arrive in North Carolina, the state's unemployment rate of 9.7 percent is now well above the national average of 8.1 percent.

Next year's figures may show a darker picture for the Triangle.

Even this year marks a slowdown for the area, despite its place at the top of the list. The growth rate was nearly half a point lower than the two previous years, when it was 4.7 percent.

The Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan area, which includes Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties, didn't make the Top 10, but its population continued to swell at a steady 2.5 percent, up slightly from the year before. Just fewer than 490,000 people live in that area.

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