If big city life is not for you, you’re not alone. Eight out of the 10 largest U.S. cities lost population during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, as families moved to the adjacent suburbs or packed up the SUV and relocated to smaller urban areas.
Small cities usually don’t offer as many professional options, but many are still thriving places to live. Several small cities in nine states experienced above average growth in employment and wages from 2015 to 2020. The largest of these booming small cities — Sioux Falls, South Dakota — has a population of only about 264,000 residents. (These are America’s 50 best cities to live.)
To identify the 11 best performing small cities in the United States, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the report Best-Performing Cities 2022 – Charting Economic Resilience and Opportunity, published by the nonprofit economic think tank Milken Institute. The report looked at small metropolitan areas, rating each by an index comprising 11 measures, including employment and wage growth.
Six of these cities experienced double-digit wage growth from 2015 to 2020, led by St. George, Utah, where wages leaped by 28% in this five-year period. At the same time, employment growth in this small city located in the far southwestern corner of the state rose by more than 23%.
Thanks to an economic boom that has lasted more than a decade, Utah is home to two small metropolitan areas and three larger ones among the best performing cities in the report. (These are the best states to look for a job.)
Besides Utah, eight other states have best-performing small cities, including Idaho with two and California, Georgia, and Washington with one each. In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (population 161,676) employment grew by 13% while wages increased by almost 20%. The metro area of about 192,000 people in Bend, Oregon, experienced similar growth.
The number of people in these cities holding a bachelor’s degree or higher ranges from 22% in Redding, California, to nearly 44% in the Champaign-Urbana metro area of Illinois.
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