America’s Fastest Growing (and Shrinking) Economies

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5. Fargo, ND-MN
> 2013 GMP change: 5.0%
> 2013 change in employment: 3.2% (20th best)
> Projected 2014 GMP change: 3.2% (44th best)
> Unemployment rate: 3.0% (2nd lowest)

Although on the other side of North Dakota from the Bakken formation, Fargo has also benefited from the state’s oil boom. In each of the past two years, the Fargo metro area’s economy has grown by at least 5%. Employment growth has been solid as well, at around 3% per year in the last two years, while the unemployment rate in the area is projected to be just 3% in 2014. Casselton, a small town outside Fargo, has become a major hub for oil transportation, which has shifted to trains because the U.S. lacks pipelines to move oil from North Dakota. However, a recent 400,000 gallon oil spill in the town has prompted safety concerns.

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4. Sioux Falls, SD
> 2013 GMP change: 5.2%
> 2013 change in employment: 2.0% (tied-65th best)
> Projected 2014 GMP change: 2.9% (70th best)
> Unemployment rate: 3.1% (tied-3rd lowest)

While South Dakota has not benefited from the oil boom as North Dakota has, parts of the state still recorded robust growth last year. The economy of Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city by population, grew by 5.2% last year, and it is projected to grow another 2.9% this year. One of Sioux Falls’ strengths has been its financial sector. Citibank has a substantial presence there, as do several other banks. As of November, 11% of the metro area’s jobs were in the finance sector. The city’s population has been growing, and Sioux Falls set a city record for construction in 2013 at $588.2 million worth of building permits issued.

3. Pascagoula, MS
> 2013 GMP change: 6.2%
> 2013 change in employment: 3.1% (23rd best)
> Projected 2014 GMP change: 2.3% (tied-144th best)
> Unemployment rate: 9.0% (54th highest)

Shipbuilding is a major industry in South Mississippi and the Pascagoula area. Located in Pascagoula, Ingalls Shipbuilding claims to be the state’s largest manufacturing employer, with 11,000 workers. The U.S. energy boom has benefitted Pascagoula as well. Shipments of liquefied natural gas through the Port of Pascagoula have been rising, although exports are still approved by the U.S. government on a case-by-case basis. Although the area’s economy grew by an impressive 6.2% last year, growth has been volatile in recent years. Pascagoula’s economy shrank by 5.6% in 2011. Additionally, the unemployment rate remained fairly high, at 9% as of November.

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2. Odessa, TX
> 2013 GMP change: 6.7%
> 2013 change in employment: 5.2% (2nd best)
> Projected 2014 GMP change: 3.1% (50th best)
> Unemployment rate: 3.7% (11th lowest)

Similar to North Dakota, the energy sector contributed to rapid economic growth in parts of Texas, in large part due to the development of hydrofracking technology. Odessa has been at the heart of the West Texas oil boom, with 2012 drilling activity surpassing early 1980s levels — when the area last experienced a major boom — according to the Dallas Morning News. Employment in the region grew by more than 5% in 2013 alone. In the past 10 years, employment in the mining, logging, and construction sector has roughly tripled.

1. Midland, TX
> 2013 GMP change: 7.5%
> 2013 change in employment: 6.3% (the best)
> Projected 2014 GMP change: 3.9% (10th best)
> Unemployment rate: 3.1% (tied-3rd lowest)

While they are technically in separate metropolitan statistical areas, Midland and Odessa are less than 25 miles apart. Midland, like Odessa, has reaped the benefits of the West Texas oil boom. According to the Dallas Morning News, the city’s population has expanded so rapidly that there is a severe housing shortage. If the IHS estimate for 2014 is correct, the Midland area will have among the top 10 GMP growth rates four years straight. Midland was also the fastest growing in the past two years. Its GMP grew by 14.4% in 2012 and by 7.5% in 2013. Between November 2009 and November 2013, the number of nonfarm jobs in the metro area increased by 35%, versus just 5.5% for the U.S. overall.