Special Report

10 Cities Where Incomes Are Growing (and Shrinking) the Fastest

Cities Where Incomes are Growing the Fastest

10. Houma-Thibodaux, LA
> Income growth in 2013: 3.5%
> Income growth 2008-2013: 7.4%
> Per capita income: $47,983
> Annual unemployment rate: 4.8%

Incomes in the Houma-Thibodaux metro area increased 3.5% in 2013, the 10th largest growth rate nationwide. In contrast, personal income grew 0.8% across the country. A fast income growth does not necessarily mean those incomes are high, and most of the cities where incomes grew the fastest had relatively low per capita incomes. In the Houma-Thibodaux area, however, per capita income was $47,983, one of the highest income figures nationwide. As was the case nationwide, income growth was tied to economic expansion in the area. GDP grew by 6.8%, driven largely by the natural resource, mining, and transportation and utilities sectors. Like Louisiana as a whole, the oil and gas industry dominates Houma-Thibodaux’s economy, and is also a major employer. The area’s agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting and mining industry also employed 11% of the workforce, far higher than the share of the national workforce, at just 2%, employed in that sector.

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9. St. George, UT
> Income growth in 2013: 3.7%
> Income growth 2008-2013: 13.2%
> Per capita income: $29,684
> Annual unemployment rate: 4.3%

Strong long-term income growth in the St. George metro area is tied to a relatively healthy economy and labor market, as well as strong population growth. Area incomes grew 13.2% over the six years through 2013, more than double the comparable national growth rate. The area’s unemployment was also just 4.3%, well below the nationwide rate of 6.2%. While the nation’s working-age population shrank slightly in 2013, it grew 2.7% in St. George, one of the larger growth rates compared to other metros — more people means more incomes, and an increase in the total income generated in the metro. GDP grew 5.9% in 2013, one of the higher rates. In contrast, the national economy expanded 1.7%. The traditionally high paying finance insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing industry was the largest contributor to St. George’s GDP growth, accounting for 2.43 percentage points of economic growth.

8. Provo-Orem, UT
> Income growth in 2013: 3.8%
> Income growth 2008-2013: 10.2%
> Per capita income: $27,760
> Annual unemployment rate: 3.5%

A statewide tech sector boom largely accounted for the strong income growth in the Provo-Orem metro area. Already in 2012, 2.5% of the area’s workforce was employed in information jobs, one of the higher shares in the country and higher than the national share of 2.1%. Although the share of tech jobs remained unchanged nationwide, in the Provo region, it increased to 2.9% in 2013, remaining one of the higher shares in the country. The startup culture and a high level of investment in the area has fueled other industries. GDP in Provo-Orem grew 6.4% in 2013, driven primarily by durable and nondurable manufacturing, as well as the trade sector. However, despite the income growth, the metro’s per capita income of $27,760 was still among the lowest personal incomes nationwide.

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7. Merced, CA
> Income growth in 2013: 3.8%
> Income growth 2008-2013: 14.1%
> Per capita income: $31,153
> Annual unemployment rate: 12.8%

Cities where incomes grew the fastest in 2013 also have seen fast long-term income growth. In Merced, for example, incomes grew by 14.1% since 2008, the first year the BEA started publishing regional income data. This was more than double the national growth rate over that period. Merced’s economy is highly dependent on the agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting and mining sector, which employed 13.1% of the area’s workforce, far higher than the nationwide share of 2%. The share of the workforce employed in the industry dropped slightly from 14.1% in 2012. While the area’s economy is largely based on agricultural activity, the natural resources and mining component of the sector also contributed to growth. Natural resources and mining accounted for 4.59 percentage points of Merced’s GDP growth of 4.5% in 2013. Despite the area’s economic growth, nearly 13% of the workforce was unemployed in 2014, one of the highest jobless rates nationwide.

6. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA
> Income growth in 2013: 3.9%
> Income growth 2008-2013: 7.3%
> Per capita income: $34,549
> Annual unemployment rate: 7.5%

Like most metro areas with strong income growth, the government sector was a drag on the economy of Vallejo-Fairfield, detracting 0.37 from GDP. Still, the economy grew by 3.8%, one of the faster growth rates nationwide. Personal income grew 2.8%, from $33,609 in 2012 to $34,549 in 2013. The Vallejo-Fairfield metro area economy grew 3.8% in 2013, well above the national growth rate of 1.7%. Nondurable goods manufacturing, which includes food and beverage, petroleum and coal products manufacturing, was the largest driver of growth in the area, adding 2.26 percentage points to GDP growth.

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