5. Raleigh, N.C.
> Change in population: 3.1%
> Population 7/11: 416,468
> Population 4/10: 403,903
> Average annual city unemployment (2011): 7.6%
> Increase in jobs (2010 to 2011): 10,500 (2.07%)
Raleigh’s economy suffered through a tough year in 2009, as the Raleigh-Cary MSA’s real gross domestic product declined 0.93%. However, Raleigh’s economy recovered, growing at a robust 5.2% pace in 2010. In 2011, the Raleigh MSA added 10,500 jobs over the year with 3,200 of these coming from the trade, transportation and utilities industries, which cumulatively make up what is as of May the city’s largest employers. Much of the Raleigh area’s housing is new — 14.6% of all housing units were created between 2005 and 2010. In 2011, Meritage Homes (NYSE: MTH), the United States’ ninth-largest homebuilder, began constructing homes in the region.
4. Denver, Colo.
> Change in population: 3.3%
> Population 7/11: 619,968
> Population 4/10: 600,008
> Average annual city unemployment (2011): 9.1%
> Increase in jobs (2010 to 2011): 18,100 (1.5%)
Denver’s population increased by 19,960 between 2010 and 2011, and it has outpaced the national growth rate for the past eight decades. According to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, much of this population growth is from the in-migration of educated people. In Denver, 40.2% of residents 25 years of age and older have bachelor’s degree or higher.
3. Plano, Tex.
> Change in population: 3.8%
> Population 7/11: 269,776
> Population 4/10: 259,841
> Average annual city unemployment (2011): 6.9%
> Increase in jobs (2010 to 2011): 41,700 (2.1%)
Plano’s population increased by almost 10,000 between April 2010 and July 2011. Much of this may have been due to the availability of jobs, as 41,700 net jobs were added in 2011 within the Dallas-Plano-Irving metropolitan division, making up more than two-thirds of those added in the MSA. Plano’s government actively recruits multinational enterprises to move their headquarters or other major facilities to the city, and has succeeded in attracting Pizza Hut, JCPenney (NYSE: JCP), Atmos Energy (NYSE: ATO), Rent-A-Center (NASDAQ: RCII) and other corporations to do so. Another facet of the city’s appeal may be its safety record. In 2011, the city had a violent crime rate of just 1.6 incidents per year per 100,000 residents. This was the lowest figure of any of the 68 cities on our list.
2. Austin, Tex.
> Change in population: 3.8%
> Population 7/11: 820,611
> Population 4/10: 790,390
> Average annual city unemployment (2011): 6.2%
> Increase in jobs (2010 to 2011): 21,900 (2.8%)
Austin added 30,221 people between April 2010 and June 2011, a rate of more than 2,000 per month. Alongside this population growth, the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos MSA has experienced tremendous economic growth. Real GDP rose 6.97% from 2009 to 2010, while the area added 21,900 jobs in 2011, helping to lower the unemployment rate to 6.2% that year. In 2010, 15% of housing units in the metropolitan area were five years old or less, the highest such proportion among all metropolitan areas reviewed by 24/7 Wall St. While many regions had weak housing markets in 2011, Austin housing prices actually rose in the fourth quarter of 2011 versus the last quarter of the previous year, reaching a median price of $188,000.
1. New Orleans, La.
> Change in population: 4.9%
> Population 7/11: 360,740
> Population 4/10: 343,829
> Average annual city unemployment (2011): 8.8%
> Increase in jobs (2010 to 2011): 6,900 (1.3%)
Continuing to rebound from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had the highest population growth in the country for any city over the size of 100,000. The city’s rate of population growth (4.9%) is more than six times the national average of 0.73%. The Big Easy’s MSA (New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner) had significant growth in information jobs and education and health services, at 7% and 3.6% respectively. Despite this growth, the city’s population is at just 80% of pre-Katrina levels.
Michael A. Sauter, Alexander E. M. Hess and Elisabeth Uible