Big City Job Growth

By: Dr. M. Ray Perryman
Published in syndication January 15, 2020

Austin-Round Rock was the fastest growing large metropolitan area in the United States over the past decade. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics recently looked at the percent change in employment for metropolitan areas with a 2010 population of at least one million, and Austin-Round Rock topped the list with 43.1% expansion. Between December 2009 and November 2019, all 51 of the largest US metropolitan areas saw employment increases, but the rates of growth varied dramatically from the rapid pace in Austin-Round Rock down to just 5.7% in Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut.

After the Austin area, the largest 10-year employment gains occurred in Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee, (38.1%), Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida (37.5%), and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California (37.5%). In addition to the Hartford area, some of the slowest were the metropolitan areas surrounding Milwaukee, Cleveland, Rochester, Virginia Beach, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo; employment in each of these population centers grew by less than 10% over the decade.

The other large Texas metropolitan areas also compared well for 10-year growth. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington employment expanded by 32.5% over the period, which was the sixth-fastest rate of gain. San Antonio-New Braunfels was up 29.4%, for a rank of 12. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land saw an increase of 26.3%, coming in at 19 out of 51. In other words, the four areas in Texas that were examined were all in the top 20, which is particularly impressive for very large areas such as the Metroplex and Houston.

Looking at a more recent timeline of the past year, employment rose in 36 of the 51 large metropolitan areas. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington and San Antonio-New Braunfels were among the fastest growing at 3.2% each, and Austin-Round Rock and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land were not far behind with 2.7% each.

The job expansion in Texas' largest metropolitan areas has been impressive, and the hiring pattern continues. Currently, all of these population centers have unemployment rates well under 4%, ranging from 2.5% in the Austin area to 3.6% in the Houston area. Job opportunities have enticed many workers to the state (though the rate of in-migration from other areas has slowed as jobless rates have plunged across the country), greatly enhancing future potential.

Growth does present challenges, as any driver on a congested freeway in the Austin area would be quick to tell you. However, when you compare that to the situation faced by some of the other large US cities, with stagnant job markets over an extended period of time, it's clearly the vastly better option.

Keeping the job expansion going over the long term will require investments ranging from infrastructure to education. However, Texas' largest metropolitan areas are well situated for continued growth, with diverse and dynamic economies.