May 17, 2023 - News

Nashville ranks No. 4 in best-performing cities

Illustration of an upward trending chart with a musical note behind the arrow, in the style of a concert poster.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Nashville vaulted into the top 5 in the Milken Institute's 2023 rankings of the nation's best-performing large cities, buoyed by a booming job market.

  • It came in at No. 4, jumping 21 spots over last year's showing.

Why it matters: The report from the nonprofit economic think tank offers one view of Nashville's recovery from the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details: The Best-Performing Cities Index is based on labor market performance, access to economic opportunities and high-tech impact.

  • Much of the data is from 2021, and the report focuses heavily on cities' recoveries from the initial year of the pandemic.
  • Housing affordability, access to broadband, GDP growth and wage and salary increases factor into the rankings.

Zoom in: "While Nashville is a well-known and popular tourist destination, its economy is bolstered by more than just the music and hospitality industries," the report notes.

  • The report cited data showing that the health care industry brought in nearly $67 billion annually and more than 328,000 local jobs.
  • High-tech job growth in the Nashville area has also outperformed the national average over the last five years, the report found.

Yes, but: The tech sector's contributions to the local economy still lag behind national numbers, with the report saying, "It remains to be seen if the recent high-tech expansion in Nashville can convert the city into a true tech hub."

The intrigue: The report also suggested the city's job surge could serve as a double-edged sword by drawing in more skilled workers and in turn driving up housing costs.

Reality check: The high marks from the Milken Institute are not reflected in the city's mood. A growing majority of residents think Nashville is headed in the wrong direction, according to a recent poll from Vanderbilt University.

  • Nashville also fell to No. 61 in U.S. News & World Report's rankings of the best places to live, which analyzes a wide range of factors, such as education quality, commute time, weather and affordability.
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