Currently, 20 cities in the United States and Canada — narrowed down from an original list of 238 — are waiting for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to announce the location of his company’s new headquarters. Anticipation of the announcement is well warranted. The facility is expected to bring 50,000 new jobs to the chosen home city.
A healthy job market is the backbone of any thriving city. Across a population, a strong labor market can create a virtuous economic cycle, reducing financial hardship, fueling consumer spending, and attracting new residents.
The United States is in the midst of unprecedented employment growth. The U.S. economy added 134,000 new jobs in September 2018, marking the 96th consecutive month of job growth. In the last five years alone, the number of Americans with a job climbed by 11.2 million, or 7.8%.
While steady employment gains are breaking records on a national level, there are parts of the country where employment is growing even more rapidly — in some cases double the U.S. job growth rate.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year changes in employment — the number of people employed — at the metro area level to identify the cities adding the most jobs. Over the past half decade, overall employment rose anywhere from 15.0% to 28.3% in the 31 cities on this list. These cities are almost entirely concentrated in the Southern and Western United States.
31. Albany, OR
> 5 yr. employment increase: 15.0% (+7,257 jobs)
> Highest growth industry: Education and health services (+2,100 jobs)
> August unemployment: 4.5%
> Median household income: $51,541
More cities in the West are adding jobs at a faster rate than in any other region in the United States. Oregon is home to five of those cities, more than any other state. In Albany, Oregon, total employment climbed 15.0% in the past five years alone, more than in all but 30 other U.S. metro areas and nearly double the national employment growth rate over the same period of 7.8%. The city’s education and health services sector contributed most to employment growth in Albany since 2013, accounting for 2,100 of the 7,257 total new jobs.
30. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA
> 5 yr. employment increase: 15.0% (+165,512 jobs)
> Highest growth industry: Education and health services (+33,300 jobs)
> August unemployment: 3.8%
> Median household income: $71,931
Total employment climbed 15.0% in the Portland metro area in the past half decade, an increase of more than 165,000. The metro area’s unemployment rate plummeted over the same period, from 7.0% in August 2013 to just 3.8% in August 2018. The city’s declining unemployment rate closely mirrored that of the nation as a whole over the same period. However, the fall in unemployment is all the more impressive in Portland as the labor force increased by 11.1% over that period. Nationwide, the number of people working or looking for work remained flat.
Rapid population growth in the Portland metro area partially explains the spike in total employment and the area’s expanding workforce. Portland metro area’s population is currently 2.4 million, up 7.1% from five years ago.
29. Prescott, AZ
> 5 yr. employment increase: 15.1% (+12,860 jobs)
> Highest growth industry: Leisure and hospitality (+2,300 jobs)
> August unemployment: 4.8%
> Median household income: $50,041
Prescott, Arizona, added 12,860 jobs in the last five years, a 15.1% increase. To compare, total employment climbed by 7.8% nationwide over the same period. Despite the improvement, unemployment remains relatively high in Prescott. As of August, 4.8% of the metro area’s labor force were out of work, well above the comparable 3.9% U.S. unemployment rate.
The metro area’s relatively high unemployment rate is due in part to a surge in the number of people looking for work. Prescott’s labor force now totals over 103,000 workers, 11.2% more than in August 2013, when 92,600 metro area residents were working or looking for work.
28. Medford, OR
> 5 yr. employment increase: 15.4% (+13,372 jobs)
> Highest growth industry: Education and health services (+3,700 jobs)
> August unemployment: 4.7%
> Median household income: $51,409
Medford is one of several rapidly growing cities in Oregon adding jobs at a faster pace than almost anywhere else in the country. Due in large part to the metro area’s education and health services industry, there are over 13,000 more jobs in Medford today than there were in 2013, a 15.4% increase. Growth in education and health services is often driven by population growth, and in the last half decade, Medford’s population grew by 5.4%, outpacing the U.S. population growth rate of 3.8%.
Job growth in Medford far outpaced labor force growth in the past five years as the city’s unemployment rate was cut in half, from 9.4% in 2013 to 4.7% in 2018.
27. Colorado Springs, CO
> 5 yr. employment increase: 15.5% (+45,706 jobs)
> Highest growth industry: Leisure and hospitality (+8,700 jobs)
> August unemployment: 4.1%
> Median household income: $65,593
Colorado Springs has added jobs in each of the past five years. The metro area’s total employment stands at just over 341,000, a 15.5% increase from 2013. Despite the steady increase in jobs, the metro area’s unemployment rate spiked in the past year, from 3.2% in August 2017 to 4.1% in August 2018.
Located along the Front Range region of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs is a mecca for outdoor types and a popular tourist destination — and tourism has driven job growth in the city in recent years. Leisure and hospitality accounts for 8,700 of the 45,700 new jobs in the city in the past five years, the most of any industry.