By the Numbers: US Labor Market Setting New Peaks

Winter 2014

With the U.S. labor market recently recapturing the 8.7 million jobs lost to the recession, now is a good time to examine which metropolitan areas are leading in job growth and which are lagging behind. Newmark Grubb Knight Frank analyzed 75 of the nation’s largest metros to determine which ones have, like the U.S., recovered all of their lost jobs and are setting new peaks. The map below divides metros into four categories: fast growth (employment levels that are 3 percent or more above the pre-recession peak); above-average growth (0 to 3 percent above); below-average growth (0 to 3 percent below); and slow growth (more than 3 percent below the peak). These percentages were calculated using the month of the peak and trough in each metro, so they are not necessarily the same as the U.S. average.

The fastest growing U.S. metro is Austin, Texas, where seasonally adjusted employment is 15.3 percent above its prior peak. That puts it well ahead of second-place Houston, which is up by 11.1 percent. Rounding out the top five are San Francisco; Nashville, Tennessee; and San Antonio. The Texas markets and San Francisco are driven by energy and technology, respectively, while Nashville’s success results from strong population growth and low business costs.

At the other extreme, the five slowest-growing markets, counting down to the bottom, are Detroit; Tucson, Arizona; Las Vegas; Wichita, Kansas; and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The labor markets in Detroit and Las Vegas fell into deep holes, and thus have a steeper climb back to their starting points. Tucson and Albuquerque are overshadowed by stronger neighbors, including Phoenix, Denver and Salt Lake City, which are job magnets. In Wichita, manufacturing employment, dominated by small aircraft production, is mired near recessionary lows. 

map of the United States with arrows