Throughout the brutal recession, one metropolitan area floated serenely above the carnage: Washington, D.C. Buoyed by government spending, the local economy expanded 17% from 2007 to 2012. But for the first time in four years, the capital region has fallen out of the top 15 big cities in our annual survey of the best places for jobs, dropping to 16th place from fifth last year.
It’s a symptom of a significant and welcome shift in the weak U.S. economic recovery: employment growth has moved away from the public sector to private businesses. In 2011, for the first time since before the recession, growth in private-sector employment outstripped the public sector. More than half (231) of the 398 metro areas we surveyed for our annual study of employment trends registered declines in government jobs, with public-sector employment dropping 0.9 percent overall. Meanwhile, private-sector employment expanded 1.4 percent.
Instead of government, the big drivers of growth now appear to be three basic sectors: energy, technology and most welcome of all, manufacturing. Energy-rich Texas cities dominate our list — the state has added some 200,000 generally high-paying oil and gas jobs over the past decade — but Texas is also leading in industrial job growth, technology and services.
To determine the best cities for jobs, we ranked all 398 current metropolitan statistical areas based on employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics covering November 2000 through January 2012. Rankings are based on recent growth trends, mid-term growth, long-term growth and the region’s momentum.
In addition to energy, the technology sector has been on a tear. After a decade of tepid growth and some years of job losses, Silicon Valley has blown itself another huge tech bubble, this time driven by the social media craze and a surge in private-equity investment. In the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area, the number of information sector jobs is up 36 percent over the past five years; this year the epicenter of Silicon Valley jumped 22 places to No. 5 among the 65 biggest metro areas.
Here are the five best big cities for jobs, according to the data:
|No. 5: San Jose|
Photo: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious / Flickr
|No. 4: Fort Worth|
Photo: Ian Dagnall/Alamy
No. 3: Salt Lake City, Utah
2011 Rank: 20th
2012 Overall Rank: 22nd
Employment Growth (year-on-year): 3.3%
|No. 3: Salt Lake City|
|No. 2: Houston|
Photo: Michael DeFreitas Danita Delimont Photography/Newscom
|No. 1: Austin|
Photo: David Sucsy/istockphoto
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