In January, for the first time in three years, Wake County Economic Development updated its list of the largest employers in the North Carolina Triangle. Since the last iteration of the data, a few well-known companies saw their workforces grow while others fell down (or off) the list. At the top, the larger employers stayed largely consistent.
To qualify, a company or organization must employ at least 2,000 people in the combined metro statistical area for Raleigh and Durham.
"We publish this data for a variety of reasons," said Michael Haley, executive director of Wake County Economic Development, which is part of the Raleigh Chamber. "One of those reasons is to help illustrate the diversity of our economy. It also enables us to celebrate these companies and show how important they are to our community."
The top six area employers on the list remained unchanged, with Duke University and Duke Health together still the largest Triangle employer by a wide margin, followed by the state government, Wake County Public School System, Walmart, UNC-Chapel Hill and WakeMed.
Among the highest risers from 2020 to today was Fidelity Investments, which cracked the top 15 employers in the Triangle.
"We are really investing in our hiring," said Sterling Ingui, the regional site lead and product area leader at Fidelity's RTP campus in Durham. "We have so many great roles for technologists to be a part of as we look to support and build the next gen products and services for our clients."
With 2,400 employees, the nonprofit Research Triangle Institute was a new entrant to the list. Through projects, the organization provides expertise and resources to clients, which include the CDC and other government agencies worldwide.
"Our existing clients come back to us year over year for the high quality and unbiased scientific research," said Bucky Fairfax, RTI's chief human resources officer. "Talent comes to RTI for our amazing culture, the opportunity to contribute to high impact, mission-based work, an inclusive and flexible work environment and the opportunity to develop their skills and careers."
Several companies saw their local employment figures fall. These include IQVIA, a publicly-traded provider of health care analytics, which dropped from 15th to 28th in the area rankings, even as the company's global workforce has grown. SAS Institute, a Cary-based analytic software provider which has ambitions to go public, also has cut back on staffing; according to the Wake County Economic Development data, SAS's area workforce has dropped by more than 1,000 people in the past few years, with some leaving via buyouts.
"Over the years through natural attrition and conservative hiring, our headcount has gone down incrementally," said SAS Institute spokesperson Shannon Heath. "For example, in recent years (and in response to employee survey data), SAS has offered an opt-in Voluntary Retirement Benefit Program to employees who meet specific criteria."
How list of large employers is made
To compile its largest employers list, Wake County Economic Development used internal research and business analytics tools D&B Hoovers, Costar and BizLeads. Haley said his organization intends to update the data yearly.
But the employer list appears to have shortcomings. Amazon, which employs more than 4,000 people at its Garner fulfillment center alone, is not on the latest list, nor is Durham Public Schools.
Epic Games told The News & Observer that the list overcounts its local workforce. According to Wake County Economic Development, Epic has 3,118 area employees, while the company, which created the popular game Fortnite, only shares that its Triangle-area staff is more than 1,000 people.
And the largest employers list doesn't reflect the dynamic pace of new hirings and layoffs, as job cuts have impacted several Triangle tech firms in recent months. This includes Lenovo, which Wake County Economic Development lists among the area's top 15 employers.
Lenovo, which makes PCs, confirmed it cut positions in December but did not specify which or how many. And per company policy, Lenovo doesn't publicize how many workers it has in the Triangle area.
This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.
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