U.S. job growth this year will be led by Sun Belt metros — but many of their cousins in the chillier Northeast and Midwest will continue to see declines. That’s the “prognosis” of a new report prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Council on Metro Economies and the New American City. The findings delve into data from between 2009 and 2016 (occasionally reaching back to figures from the ’90s) to measure cities’ employment growth since the Great Recession — and make predictions about their economic futures.
The paper’s first takeaway is obvious to anyone skimming headlines on Facebook these days: Cities are driving the economy. That doesn’t necessarily mean BIG cities (St. George, Utah, has experienced record growth since 2010 – see below), but in 2016, as in 2015, metros “generated more than 95 [percent] of the net new jobs in the U.S.”
According to the report:
Over 300 metros experienced job growth in 2016, with the New York and Dallas metros each adding over 100,000 jobs in 2016, and Los Angeles was close, at 90,000. Orlando (4.2 [percent]), Salt Lake City, San Jose, and Seattle, each at 3.4 [percent], led in rates of job growth among large metros. At yearend, unemployment rates had fallen to less than 2.5 [percent] in Ames, IA, Boulder, CO, Sioux Falls, SD, and Burlington, VT. Unemployment rates fell to less than 3 [percent] in 15 other metro areas including Boston, Denver and Salt Lake City, and to less than 4 [percent] in 75 more. The national rate was 4.5 [percent] in 2016, its lowest since early in 2007.
But economic growth — though trending upward — has been deeply uneven, according to the paper.
Twenty-three metros have employment levels below that of 1990, with seven of them (Flint, Binghamton, Dayton, Weirton- Steubenville, Mansfield, Pine Bluff, and Danville) falling more than 10 [percent], behind 1990 levels. Eighteen of these metros are in the ‘Rust Belt’ area stretching from upstate New York to Illinois, where manufacturing was once the dominant and thriving, industry. The others are in southern New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, or Arkansas. One half of these metros were still losing jobs over the past 5 years, as the nation recovered from the recession.
Going forward, researchers believe they’ll see many of the same trends that have informed those numbers (and dominated the 2016 election news cycle). The writers mention interstate migration from Northern to Sun Belt states, which Next City has covered in more detail here. And, of course, there’s the grinding slowdown of manufacturing.
The share of all US workers in manufacturing fell from 16.1 [percent] in 1990, to 8.5 [percent] in 2016. During this time, the nation lost 5.4 million manufacturing jobs. For the Midwest the implications were dire – in 1990 manufacturing jobs were more crucial to the local economy, making up 20.8 [percent] of its employment. In 2016, that share has fallen to 13.0 [percent], as the region lost 28 [percent] of its production jobs.
So growth prospects, naturally, are more favorable to a number of cities in the South. In 2017, job growth is expected to be led by the Orlando, Dallas and Denver areas, among large metros. For the rest of the decade, median metro job growth is expected to be around 1 percent annually, with Las Vegas, Orlando and Austin in the lead (again, among the large metros). According to the paper: “Thirty-two metros will see growth in excess of 2 [percent], though none in the Northeast or Midwest.”
And things also don’t look too bright for some of the metros that have continued in recession-mode.
Seventy-three (19 [percent] of all metros) of the eighty-six metros which have lost jobs since 2000 will not recover them by 2020. As a group, these metros accounted for over 15 million jobs in 2000, then lost 11 [percent] of them (1.6 million) by 2010, and though they have regained 0.7 million in the recovery, are still 6% (0.9 million) below 2000 levels. These same metros had job gains of almost 2 million in the 1990s.”
To read the full report, click here.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.