5. Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN
> Change in local gov’t employment: 4.6%
> Employment trough: 2009Q3
> Unemployment: 8.7%
> Change in total employment, trough to 2011Q1: 2.9%
Nashville has just recently begun to recover from the recession. And even better, it won’t take much time to do so. As recently as last year, the city was still deeply entrenched in the economic effects of recession, with an exceptionally high rate of joblessness. According to a study released this month by the US Conference of Mayors, Nashville will return to its pre-recession jobs peak by the end of 2012, one of the earliest dates for any metropolitan area. This is due to the city’s diverse economy and growing population. From pre-recession peak to its lowest level, total employment fell 6.2%. Local government employment has already increased 4.6% since that trough.
4. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
> Change in local gov’t employment: 5.6%
> Employment trough: 2009Q2
> Unemployment: 11.4%
> Change in total employment, trough to 2011Q1: 3.4%
The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX metropolitan area had the lowest median household income in the country in 2000 — $24,863. As of 2010, that amount had increased by more than $10,000. Although it remains the lowest amount in the country, it shows that there is growth. The area has fared extremely well throughout the recession, with total employment actually increasing 2.2% from its prior peak. The 5.6% in local government employment, therefore, represents growth that is more than a mere return to form. McAllen’s economy has begun to thrive over the last few years. The city’s primary sectors for job growth are government, education, and health care. McAllen has also been featured on a number of “best real estate market” lists.
3. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
> Change in local gov’t employment: 6%
> Employment trough: 2009Q4
> Unemployment: 7.6%
> Change in total employment, trough to 2011Q1: 2.7%
Governor Scott Walker pushed through a law that restricts the collective bargaining rights of state workers, which not surprisingly sparked a wave of early retirements. Nonetheless, local government employment has increased significantly in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. This increase is largely the result of the local economy’s strong emergence from the recession. Milwaukee is one of only twenty metropolitan areas to have positive job growth in all four quarters from the second quarter of 2010 through the first quarter of 2011, according to the Brookings Institute. Milwaukee and its surrounding area is home to 12 Fortune 1,000 companies, including Harley Davidson, Johnson Controls, Kohl’s and Northwestern Mutual. The largest employer in the area is the health care industry.
2. El Paso, TX
> Change in local gov’t employment: 6.4%
> Employment trough: 2009Q3
> Unemployment: 9.7%
> Change in total employment, trough to 2011Q1: 3.2%
El Paso, like McAllen, is a city on the Texas-Mexico border which made it through the recession only to go on a public employee hiring binge. The percentage of people living below the poverty line was 11.5 percent as recently as 2009, the highest it had been since 2004. Additionally, the number of families receiving food assistance increased 72 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. Since 2009, however, conditions have improved dramatically. The recent expansion of military base, Fort Bliss, which is now one of the largest installations in the country, has caused a real estate boom in the area. Now, as Fortune reports, “the area is undergoing some of its fastest population growth in recent history.” This growth has helped the economy, allowing for the addition of government jobs.
1. New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA
> Change in local gov’t employment: 12.1%
> Employment trough: 2005Q4
> Unemployment: 7.2%
> Change in total employment, trough to 2011Q1: 19%
Employment was at its lowest point in the New Orleans metropolitan area roughly four years earlier than the other cities on this list. This is because of Hurricane Katrina, which caused an estimated 400,000 jobs to be lost in the city, according to the Associated Press. As a result, an estimated 13,000 government workers were laid-off. After the disaster, employment had nowhere to go but up. New Orleans, therefore, has had by far the greatest increase in local government employment among US cities, despite a number of hiring freezes over the last few years.
Douglas A. McIntyre and Charles B. Stockdale