In spite of ominous reports about the unemployment rate in this country, nearly every city will see some level of job gains in 2012, according to the US Conference of Mayors. Additionally, the housing market is finally improving with the Midwest and southern states leading the way, according to BMO Economics. These 10 cities are leading the way in economic growth and sustainability.
1. Austin, Texas
The secret is out–Austin is a great place to live and work. People are buying houses in Austin, one of a few cities on our list that has seen growth in the housing market over the last five years. Couple that with low unemployment (more than 2 percentage points below the national average) and it’s no wonder it scored high on the Milken index measuring job creation and sustainability. According to the Austin Business Journal, the city saw 13,200 jobs added in 2011. Austin also scored fourth place overall on our Best Cities list.
2. Omaha, Nebraska
With an unemployment rate well below the national average, Omaha is following a state-wide trend of dipping unemployment. Nebraska’s rate fell below four percent for the first time since December 2008. According to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, the Omaha area saw 20 percent of companies planning to hire more employees. Omaha also scored high on the Milken index for sustainable jobs, ranking fourteenth, and came in ninth place overall on our Best Cities list.
3. San Antonio, Texas
Texas makes five appearances on this list thanks to a combination of good housing markets and lower unemployment compared to other states. Texas didn’t see quite as big a bubble in the housing market due to state laws limiting home equity loans to 80 percent of the home value. The state also entered the recession later than the rest of the country because of a comparatively better job market. San Antonio makes it to number three with the highest score on the Milken index for sustainable jobs. Overall, the city is a promising place to get – and keep – a job.
4. Houston, Texas
Like the other Texas cities on this list, Houston offers a stable housing market and a comparatively lower unemployment rate. Perhaps those factors led to its high ranking on the Milken index for job growth. The Houston city area also scored high on Policom’s index for economic strength that looks at consistent economic growth over time. Houston is a good economic bet for the long term.
5. Salt Lake City, Utah
Thanks to the businesses that set roots in Salt Lake City for the Olympics back in 2002, the city weathered the recession,enabling it to score high on both the Milken sustainable job index and Policom’s economic stability index. With a low 5.9 percent unemployment rate (compared to the 8.7 percent national rate), Salt Lake is pulling through the recession on top.
6. Madison, Wisconsin
While Madison has seen a slide in its housing market, the job situation and economic climate places the city firmly on our top 10 list. Their unemployment rate is below 6 percent, they scored high on the Milken index for job growth and a secured 12th place for Policom’s economic stability index. With the large University of Wisconsin located in the city providing a pool of experts and scientists, and approximately 30,500 high tech jobs from roughly 600 companies, Madison is making a name for itself in the world of research and tech.
7. Arlington, Virginia/Washington, D.C.
While the area has not faired well with the housing values, it makes up for it with a strong economy and low unemployment. Government jobs are still a boon for the Arlington/D.C. area, which scored first place in the Policom economic stability index. The Milken index also gave the area high scores for providing stable job growth, pushing the Arlington/D.C. area into tenth place for sustainable jobs. Top it off with an unemployment rate nearly three percentage points below the national, and you have a sure thing when it comes to economic stability.
8. Dallas, Texas
Yet another Texas city makes the list, albeit with a higher unemployment rate than fellow Lone Star cities like Austin or San Antonio. However, Dallas still benefits from a steady housing market, growing job market and a stable economy. While the Dallas area saw declines in construction jobs, like the rest of the country, the city saw growth in areas of education, health care and hospitality.
9. Des Moines, Iowa
Iowa’s state capital offers a variety of industries for employment including insurance, retail and health care. With a commitment to a thriving downtown, Des Moines boasts a corridor of 38 blocks and 3.2 miles of “skywalks”–elevated, enclosed passageways that connect buildings in a climate controlled environment, so that the downtown area keeps bustling no matter the weather. Des Moines scored high on our rankings for its low unemployment rate, and came in seventh place for the Policom sustainable economy index.
10. Arlington, Texas
Bookending this list with another Texas city, Arlington makes the cut due to its steady housing market, high ranking on the Milken job growth index and 13th place for the Policom sustainable economy index. Less than 30 miles from Dallas, it shares Dallas’s sunny outlook when it comes to job growth with 80 percent of Arlington businesses expecting to maintain their current staff levels, according to a survey by Manpower.