I have a simple and straightforward way of rating U.S. major city labor markets. For the 51 metro statistical areas (MSAs) in the country with populations of more than a million, I first rank them according to year-over-year jobs growth, fastest to slowest. Second, I rank them by unemployment rate, lowest (best) to highest (worst).
This yields two ranking numbers for each city. I calculate their average. Then I rank the 51 cities by their average number.
According to this methodology, the best five city labor markets in the U.S. right now are Austin, Atlanta, Nashville, San Jose, and Orlando. In Table 1, you’ll see those cities highlighted in a tan-color shading. They have both good jobs growth and low unemployment rates.
The next best tier of five cities is comprised of San Francisco, Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami, and Seattle. You’ll notice that cities in Florida are doing well. They make up four of the top ten.
The second-best tier of five cities has blue shading in Table 1.
There are some cities that are performing great according to one measure, but then trail significantly in the other. For example, Las Vegas is experiencing a big jump in all jobs employment (+10.3% for a 1st place ranking), but it still has an outsized unemployment rate (5.0% for a 50th place ranking).
Minneapolis-St Paul has the country’s lowest unemployment rate (1.5% for a 1st place ranking), but its year-over-year jobs growth is lackluster (+2.9% for a 39th place ranking). For manageability, Table 1 shows only the top 33 cities (out of 51) for both jobs growth and unemployment rates.
The five worst cities for labor markets at present, according to this means of measurement, are Hartford, Pittsburg, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and Cleveland.
Labor Markets in America’s 12 Most Populous Cities
Let’s narrow the focus and look at only the 12 most populous cities in America. Graph 1 shows their rankings according to unemployment rates. Atlanta is number one with a not seasonally adjusted (NSA) U rate of just 2.4%. There’s a tie for next in line between Miami and San Francisco, both with NSA U rates of 2.5%.
By y/y jobs growth, it’s Dallas-Ft Worth (+7.4%) in frontrunner position, followed by Atlanta (+6.7%) and San Francisco (+6.0%).
Ranking the 12 biggest (by population) U.S. cities according to a combination of both jobs growth (fastest to slowest) and unemployment rates (lowest to highest) places Atlanta at the top, joined by San Francisco and Miami.
At the bottom are New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
Major City Construction Jobs
Table 2 delves into the construction employment numbers for the 12 most populous cities (top set of figures) and for the other 39 cities (bottom set of figures).
By number of construction jobs, the biggest population centers are dominant. They hold 11 of the first 12 spots. Seattle, however, currently does have more construction jobs than Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.
By year-over-year percent change in construction jobs, Texas has the two cities that are setting the pace among the 12 most populous, Houston (+6.2%) and Dallas-Ft Worth (+5.9%). Los Angeles (+0.5%) and New York (also +0.5%) are showing little change.
When the data pool is expanded to all 51 MSAs, it’s two cities in Missouri with the speediest y/y growth in number of construction jobs, Kansas City (+7.9%) and St. Louis (also +7.9%).
Alex Carrick is Chief Economist for ConstructConnect. He has delivered presentations throughout North America on the U.S., Canadian and world construction outlooks. Mr. Carrick has been with the company since 1985. Links to his numerous articles are featured on Twitter @ConstructConnx, which has 50,000 followers.