By on 2.21.19 in Economic Data

The United States economy is primarily driven by the economic activity within its metropolitan areas. From 2012 to 2017, 90% of the nation’s annual GDP was contributed by the nation’s 383 metros. This is to be expected, as 86% of the US population lives in a metropolitan statistical area.

North Carolina follows a similar trend. In 2017, the state’s overall GDP was approximately $540 billion, and the combined metros totaled $476 billion, or 88%, of the state GDP.* Economic activity is even more concentrated in certain urban areas, as the Charlotte and Triangle metros alone accounted for over half of the 2017 state GDP. Though a smaller share of the state’s population lives in metro areas (81%), it still comprises the large majority of residents.

Of the fifteen metropolitan areas in North Carolina:

  • $174 billion, or 32%, was contributed by the Charlotte metro;
  • $126 billion, or 23%, was contributed by the Triangle;
    • $83 billion from Raleigh and $43 billion from Durham-Chapel Hill
  • $71 billion, or 13%, was contributed by the Triad
    • $41 billion from Greensboro-High Point and $30 billion from Winston-Salem
  • The remaining ten metro areas contributed $104 billion, or 19%, of North Carolina’s 2017 GDP

North Carolina has the 11th largest GDP in the nation, comparable in size to the entire economic output of Poland. In other words, if North Carolina were its own country, it would approximately be the 23rd largest economy in the world.

How do our state’s metropolitan areas compare to the economic activity of other nations?

  • At $174 billion in 2017, Charlotte’s metro GDP was larger than that of the nation of Algeria ($170B). It would be the world’s 53rd largest economy, up seven spots since 2013. It ranks among the top 20 metropolitan GDPs in the United States.
  • The combined Triangle GDP of $126 billion exceeds Angola ($124B), placing 57th in the world. Within the US, it would rank 35th, exceeding the economic outputs of both Sacramento ($126B) and Las Vegas ($112B).
    • Raleigh’s GDP of $83 billion would exceed that of Ethiopia ($81B), placing it 65th in terms of world economies. Within the nation, it ranks among the top 50 GDPs.
    • Durham-Chapel Hill’s economic output of $43 billion was approximate to Turkmenistan ($42B).
  • The Triad’s combined economic output of $71B billion would rank 70th in the world ahead of Myanmar ($69). Among US metros, it would bump out Honolulu for the 50th
  • Greensboro-High Point’s GDP was $41 billion in 2017, tying for 87th largest world economy with Serbia ($41B).
  • At $30 billion, Winston-Salem’s economic output was equivalent to Latvia ($30B).
*Note that this combined metro GDP includes a small portion of South Carolina’s economic activity, as the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia metro includes three SC counties.


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