What Are America’s Most Competitive Metro Areas?

Looking at employment changes over the last two years, New Geography asked EMSI to conduct a shift share analysis to identify America’s most economically competitive metros.  Here are their top five:

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (3.5%) – The heart of Silicon Valley has created 35,803 more jobs than expected since 2010, thanks largely to the information sector (most notably, internet publishing and broadcasting and web search portals and software publishers). Electronic computer manufacturing has also seen more-than-expected growth in the San Jose metro area, as has warehouse clubs and supercenters and private elementary/secondary schools.

In other words, the high-paying jobs generated in the tech sector appear to be leading to more jobs in the retail trade and education sectors than we would expect based on national trends.

2. Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas (3.4%) – Save for government and retail trade, every broad sector in the Austin metro area has exceeded expectations. The result is 30,472 more jobs than expected from 2010 and 2012. The strongest sub-sectors in Austin are wired telecommunications carriers; wholesale trade agents and brokers; and corporate, subsidiary, and regional managing offices.

3. Bakersfield, Calif. (3.1%) – Bakersfield has one of the highest unemployment rates (12%) among all metropolitan areas. But better-than-expected job growth in the construction and agricultural sectors has propelled this San Joaquin Valley metro to third in our ranking. The agriculture boom has been seen most in crop production and farm labor contractors/crew leaders. Meanwhile, much of the surprising construction growth has been in two sub-sectors — oil and gas pipeline and related structures construction and electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors.

4. Provo-Orem, Utah (2.8%) – Next is Provo-Orem, which has the fourth-fewest total jobs of any top 100 metro (an estimated 211,639). This metro area just south of Salt Lake City has seen surprisingly large job gains in professional, scientific, and technical services (see here for more); administrative and support services; specialty trade contractors; state/local government; and computer and electronic product manufacturing.

A note on Utah: Provo-Orem, Salt Lake City (No. 6), and Ogden-Clearfield (No. 29) are all in the upper third of the top 100 metros in competitiveness.

5. Houston-Sugar Land-Bayton, Texas (2.7%) — No metro in America has added more jobs than expected since 2010 than Houston (79,815). These jobs aren’t coming in oil & gas extraction or support activities for mining — Houston’s actually doing worse than expected in these two booming industries — but rather in health care, accommodation/food service, and manufacturing. In particular, home health care services, offices of physicians, restaurants, employment services, and fabricated metal product manufacturing are far surpassing expected growth.

A couple of caveats worth noting:  These are trends based upon 2 years’ worth of data.  Also, the model assumes that competitiveness and job creation are synonymous.  It is important to keep in mind that in some cases, innovative economies may be generating productivity gains that stifle job creation.  So the picture maybe a bit more complex than this analysis suggests.  But it is fun to see which metro areas made the list.

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