Feb 6, 2024 - News

Austin tops Milken Institute city rankings

An aerial view of Austin

Downtown Austin on a very sunny day. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Austin tops the Milken Institute's latest annual list of the Best Performing Cities, released first to Axios.

Why it matters: These metropolitan areas offer high wages, plentiful jobs, and thriving tech sectors — making them economic models for the rest of the nation.

Between the lines: Even as Austin grapples with growing pains, it continues to draw accolades.

Details: The Milken Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit, assessed 403 U.S. metropolitan areas using 13 economic metrics, based on data from January 2022-August 2023.

Of note: This year's rankings took two new factors into consideration: income equality and "resilience," defined as a city's ability to withstand severe weather and economic turmoil.

Yes, but: It's not exactly cheap to live here.

Plus: We don't have a sterling record when it comes to enduring severe weather, with winter storms the past few years knocking out power and leading to deaths.

What they're saying: "These rankings really look at growth," Maggie Switek, an author of the Milken report, tells Axios. "What we mean by top-performing is that these are the cities that are growing the fastest."

Where it stands: The Austin/Round Rock area ranked first among large metropolitan areas because of its "rapid growth in jobs, wages, and high tech," bolstered by the presence of the University of Texas.

  • It moved up from its #2 position last year, displacing Provo/Orem, Utah (which saw declines in job and wage growth due to recent tech layoffs).

Zoom out: The U.S. labor market added more than 6 million jobs in 2022, 90.7% of which were in metropolitan areas.

  • But the geographic distribution of this growth has changed, shifting from mega-cities such as New York and Los Angeles to Texas and the Sun Belt.

What's next: Expect climate change, the migration of high-tech jobs and the evolution of remote work patterns to continue shaping the fortunes of cities across America.


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