Nov 5, 2022 - Economy

America's 10 fastest-growing population centers

Illustration of a suitcase with a dollar sign shaped arms

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Technology jobs and the rebound in tourism are fueling a reshuffling of America's population centers, according to an October report by a nonpartisan think tank affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Driving the news: The American Growth Project by the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, a business policy think tank, found that the top 10 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. are moving the "center of gravity" for economic activity away from the East Coast, Kenan executive director Gregory Brown tells Axios.

  • The San Francisco Bay Area, Austin, Seattle, Raleigh and Durham, Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Orlando make up the top rankings.

Why it matters: These are America's next boomtowns — if local leaders find ways to capitalize on burgeoning industries, Brown says.

  • These cities will need to invest in infrastructure, such as housing, plus education and job training to fuel their growth potential, according to the report.

The methodology: Researchers built the list by weighing factors that included county-level employment rates and economic output for each city.

The intrigue: Brown points to No. 2 Austin as an example of what could be on the horizon for lower-ranked cities.

  • In two years, the median home value there grew from $349,156 to $566,479, according to the research.
  • "It's going to be a big change over the next few years for people who live [in the 10 cities] to see how you suddenly become a much bigger, more vibrant city," Brown says.

Zoom in: A strong tech industry, buoyed by pandemic gains for companies like Zoom, secured the top two spots for the San Francisco Bay Area and Austin — for now.

  • Hiring freezes and declining real estate trends could be "worrisome" for San Francisco and evidence that Austin's labor boom may have peaked, the research says.

Yes, but: Younger residents are contributing to stable growth prospects for cities like Seattle (No. 3) and Denver (No. 6).

  • The report notes that Seattle, home to Amazon and Microsoft, is a leader in clean energy, which researchers believe attracts young job seekers.
  • Millennials are helping drive Denver's economy, with researchers pointing to a separate study that found 71% of people who lived in Denver at age 16 stayed or had returned by age 26.
  • Meanwhile, a rebound in tourism and hospitality in the past year helped push Orlando and New Orleans into the top 10.

Go deeper: Dallas is growing really fast

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