Job growth is slowly on the rise according to analysts. Recently the annual list of “Best Cities for Jobs” was release with some surprising results. Last year the reports showed a gloomy outlook when only 13 of 397 metropolitan areas experienced any growth. For this year's list, which measured job growth in the period between January 2010 and January 2011, most of the best-performing areas experienced increases in employment increases.
Almost 400 metropolitan statistical areas are ranked based on employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported from November 1999 to January 2011. Rankings are based on recent growth trends, mid-term growth and long-term growth and momentum. The locations are also broke down by size, small, medium and large, because regional economies differ markedly due to their scale.
Reflecting the importance of the war effort in stimulating local economies, command of this year's best place for jobs was handed to the Army from the Marines. Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, Texas, shot up to #1 from #4, while the military-based Jacksonville, N.C., last year's first-place winner dropped to 19th place.
Once again the best places for jobs tended to be smaller communities where small improvements can have a relatively large impact. Eighteen of the top 20 cities were either small (under 150,000 nonfarm jobs) or mid-sized areas (less than 450,000 jobs).
Texas, however, dominated the three size categories, with the #1 mid-sized city, El Paso (#3 overall, up 22 places from last year) and #1 large metropolitan area Austin (#6 overall), joining Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood (the #1 small city) atop their respective lists.
Texas also produced three other of the top 10 smallest regions, including energy-dominated #4 Midland, which gained 41 places overall, and #10 Odessa, whose economy jumped a remarkable 57 places. It also added two other mid-size cities to the list with #2 Corpus Christi and #4 McAllen-Edinburgh-Mission. With all this moving there has also been an increase in Truck Bed Liners.
California experience a miserable year with having zero regions in the top 150. This led to a group of California officials to Texas to learn possible lessons about what drives job creation. Gov. Jerry Brown and others in California's hierarchy have a lot to learn as, the fact is, that the city Brown formerly ran, Oakland, ranked absolute last (#65), among the big metros in the report. This is two places behind perennial also-ran #63 Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, Mich.
One lesson that green-centric California may have trouble learning is that, however attractive the long-term promise of alternative energy, fossil fuels pay the bills and create strong economies, at least for now. Even outside of Texas, oil capitals did well across the board, not surprising given the surging price of gas. The #2 small metro, Bismarck, N.D., which also is #2 overall, is the emerging capital of the expanding Dakota energy belt. Also faring well are Alaska's two oil-fire cities, Fairbanks (#10 on the small list) and Anchorage (#3 on the medium-sized list).
There were some great improvements as well. Most welcome are signs of revival from New Orleans-Metarie, La., which moved up a stunning 46 places to capture the #2 slot among large metros. The region lost 11% of its population and nearly 16% of its jobs during the last decade. But now the Big Easy seems to be finding its place again among America's great cities. Jobs, up 3.5% since 2006, have been created by rebuilding, a resurgence of tourism and a growing immigrant population. This region’s Hispanic population grew by 35,000 over the past decade.
There were other inspirational improvements this year. Sparked by a revival in manufacturing, a host of former gloomy areas in parts of the Midwest are showing signs of definite improvement. Niles-Benton Harbor, Mich., a long-time sleeper at the bottom of the list, shot up a remarkable 242 places this year to a respectable #121. Another old industrial city, Kokomo, Ind., ascended 177 places to #215, while Holland-Grand Haven, Mich., improved by 172 places to #221 and Grand Rapids, Mich., rose 167 places to #183. Milwaukee, a long-time loser among the largest metros, moved up by a healthy 163 places overall to a better-than-average #143.
The Northeast Corridor has also made strong progress. The stimulus has been particularly good for the vibrant economies surrounding the ever-expanding federal leviathan. Among the large metros, Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, Va., did best of all the cities outside the South, repeating its #6 ranking among large metro areas. Right behind, at #7 on the large city list, sits the primarily suburban Northern Virginia metro area, while Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md., ranks 12th.
The other big East Coast winners are the financial and university-oriented economies, which have reaped huge benefits from the TARP bailout and the Obama administration's college-centric stimulus plan. After the Texas cities and the imperial center, most of the best performing big metros are located in financial and university centers, including #9 New York City, #10 Philadelphia, #11 Pittsburgh, #13 Boston and #15 Raleigh-Cary, N.C, which is good news for Raleigh Real Estate.
Outside of Oakland and the big Southern California metros the biggest losers including #60 Los Angeles, #59 Sacramento, #58 Riverside-San Bernardino and #50 Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine. The bottom tier consisted of a motley crew of mid-South cities like Memphis (#64 on the big city list) and still-struggling, former big Sunbelt boomtowns Las Vegas (#62), West Palm Beach-Boynton Beach-Boca Raton, Fla. (#56), Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Boynton Beach, Fla. (#54), Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz. (#53), Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga. (#52) and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (#51) which are leaving people asking who can Ship My Car?
For the most part, these areas rose with the housing bubble and will not fully recover until the economy diversifies beyond real estate speculation. Already some of the bubble victims are showing signs of life, including #155 Merced, Calif., up 134 places, and #167 Orlando, Fla., which rode a revived interest in tourism to jump 89 places since last year.
While energy, America's three wars, the recovering financial markets and real estate problems have played the lead role in setting the stage for the best places to do business, the Intermountain West has shown resilience with Salt Lake City, at #20 among large cities; Provo-Orem, Utah, Ogden-Clearfield, Utah, and Boulder, Colo., at Nos. 10, 25 and 26, respectively, among mid-sized cities; and Logan, Utah, and Fort Collins, Colo., at Nos. 9 and 38 among small cities.
The weak economy continues to reek havoc on new jobs, however, small increases are a good sign. California, Florida, and Nevada have had a bleak year, but improvement can still be noted. Hope is given to all with a city like New Orleans making huge strides. The next surge is expected to be in old industrial areas with newer infrastructure and appealing climates.