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Economic Data

The Charleston regional economy can aptly be described as ‘transcendent.’ Developments since the turn of the decade have elevated Charleston to international prominence.

The newfound global stature of Charleston is the culmination of two decades of focused effort, as well as a sound pro-business environment, and plenty of good fortune. Beginning with the closure of the Naval Complex in Charleston by the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission, tri-county government and business leaders have mounted a robust campaign of economic recruitment, tourism promotion, and growth of the federal government presence.

Several major milestones over the last decade:

  • Establishment of six Boeing facilities and business units; Boeing Final Assembly and delivery site for the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing Interior Responsibility Center, two Centers of Excellence – Information Technology and Engineering, Boeing Research & Technology Center and Propulsion South Carolina. In October 2020, Boeing announced that it would consolidate its 787 production to its North Charleston, South Carolina location.
  • Mercedes-Benz Vans, LLC (“MBV”) opened its plant in Palmetto Commerce Park in 1999 and announced in 2005 an expansion that would more than double the plant size. The facility held it’s grand opening event in September 2018. The plant is the first-of its kind for MVB in the United States, now employing more than 1,600 people. In March 2021, MBV announced that the North Charleston plant would be one of three plants selected to build its next generation eSprinter (starting in 2023). The North Charleston plant is the only US location announced for this new production.
  • Presence of the Naval Information Warfare Centers (NIWC – pronounced Ny-wick) (formerly called Space and Air Warfare Systems or SPAWAR), along with various other Navy and Air Force commands attached to Joint Base Charleston
  • Increased Port-related volume growth and the execution of a multi-year capital investment plan including harbor deepening, terminal construction and improvements. The Port of Charleston is the eight largest U.S. Container Port by cargo value in CY 2019. In April 2021, SC Ports opened Phase 1 of the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal (HLT). The terminal is the country’s newest container terminal to open in over ten years and adds 700,000 TEU of capacity to the Port of Charleston.
  • Growth of the medical sector supported by the presences of  Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). MUSC is a leading research and teaching hospital in the southeast managing over $284 million in biomedical research funding in FY 2019. MUSC research funding has supported over 800 inventors and produced 1,500 inventions disclosures. MUSC research focuses on a wide variety of areas including cancer, community health, drug discovery, health disparities, inflammation and fibrosis, neuroscience, oral health, and stroke and spinal cord injury. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and 700 residents in six colleges.
  • Growth of the information technology / software sector has contributed significantly to local job growth.  Charleston is home to more than 250 tech  companies. A recent study by the South Carolina Tech council revealed that the average annual tech employment for the Charleston region is 15.5 percent. The region is ranked 13th on the Milken Institute’s list of 2020 Best-Performing Cities.
  • With additional air service from Frontier and Allegiant and the introduction of a nonstop flight to London provided British Airways, Charleston International Airport continues to support a thriving travel and tourism industry. Charleston welcomed 7.43 million visitors in 2019 producing $9.7 billion in economic impact.


  • Population:   836,039 Residents in the Charleston Region / 413,024 Residents in Charleston County
  • Workforce:   408,909 Workers in the Charleston Region / 220,077 Workers in Charleston County
  • Median Household Income:   $68,000 in the Charleston Region / $64,022 in Charleston County
  • Cost of Living Index Level:   101.4 for the Charleston Region
  • Gross Regional Product:   $51.1 Billion for the Charleston Region / $34.5 Billion for Charleston County


  • Government (NAICS – 90):   80,798 Jobs
  • Retail Trade (NAICS 44):  43,248 Jobs
  • Accommodation and Food Service (NAICS 72):  37,669 Jobs
  • Health Care and Social Assistance (NAICS 62):   37,171 Jobs
  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (NAICS 54):  30,198 Jobs
  • Manufacturing (NAICS 31):  29,176 Jobs
  • Construction (NAICS 23):  24,229 Jobs
  • Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation (NAICS 56):  23,793 Jobs
  • Other Services (Except Public Administration (NAICS 81):  20,726 Jobs
  • Transportation and Warehousing (NAICS 48):  15,742 Jobs

NAICS = North American Industry Classification System
Source: Emsi – 2021.3 – QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, and Self-Employed

TOP INDUSTRY-SECTORS (By Job Growth) – As of 2021

  • Management of Companies and Enterprises
  • Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction*
  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
  • Construction
  • Real Estate and Rental and Leasing
  • Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation
  • Manufacturing
  • Other Services (except Public Administration)
  • Transportation and Warehousing
  • Wholesale Trade
  • Health Care and Social Assistance
  • Finance and Insurance
  • Educational Services
  • Accommodation and Food Services
  • Information

*Under 50 jobs
Source: Emsi, 2021.4 – QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, and Self-Employed, 2011 to 2021

TOP INDUSTRY CLUSTERS (By Regional Specialization*)

  • Paper and Packaging
  • Aerospace Vehicles and Defense
  • Water Transportation
  • Federal Government Services
  • Production Technology and Heavy Machinery
  • Local Health Services
  • Printing Services
  • Automotive
  • Local Hospitality Establishments

Regional Specialization = Regional job concentration is higher than the national average job concentration.
Source: Emsi