The hottest job markets in the country right now are led by Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; Raleigh, North Carolina; Salt Lake City; and Jacksonville, Florida, according to the latest annual ranking by the Wall Street Journal, which takes into account factors including job and wage growth and the unemployment rate. These are midsize cities with populations of at least 1 million to no more than 2.3 million are in warmer climates and have little or no income taxes. (Also see, cities that will add the most jobs by 2060 according to economists.)
Despite being the hottest job markets, they do not rank as the fastest growing economy in their state. In fact, the vast majority of counties that rank as the fastest growing in their state have populations well under 1 million.
To determine the fastest growing local economy in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed historical data on gross domestic product from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Counties and county equivalents were ranked based on the percentage change in real GDP from 2017 to 2021.
Real GDP growth of the fastest growing county in every state ranges from -2.2% in Kauai County, Hawaii, to 223.5% in Foard County, Texas. The median real GDP growth among the counties on the list was 32% from 2017 to 2021. (And this is how fast the economy grew in every state last quarter.)
Populations of these counties range from 562 residents in Yakutat City and Borough, Alaska, to 1.9 million in Santa Clara County, California, but the vast majority have populations under 1 million. The median population of these 50 fastest growing local economies is 24,310.
Kauai County, whose largest industry is finance and insurance, has been the least impacted of Hawaii’s five counties by the devastating economic effect of the coronavirus pandemic that crippled tourism and air travel. Meanwhile, Foard County, with a population of just 1,084 residents living on the sweeping plains of North Texas, is part of a regional boom in the state’s wind power construction.
Among these 50 fastest growing economies, the largest industry in nine is utilities. In eight of these counties, the largest industry is agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. Other leading industries are manufacturing and mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction.
But before you decide to head off one of these low-population areas to reap the benefits of rapid economic growth, keep in mind that job opportunities may be limited to specific industries. For example, Sumter County, Florida, experienced nearly 53% growth in its GDP from 2017 to 2021, but it has higher unemployment than the state and national rates, and its economy is largely driven by construction activity surrounding The Villages, the state’s large and rapidly growing retirement community.
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