Metropolitan areas in red states dominated in economic growth as the U.S. began its recovery from the pandemic, according to a fresh analysis.
The nonpartisan think tank Milken Institute released its 2023 rankings for the best-performing cities in the U.S. for economic growth on Tuesday, measuring 12 indicators such as job creation and wage increases using data mainly from 2021 – the first year the nation began emerging from the disruptions brought on by COVID-19 in 2020.
The researchers determined the cities’ industry makeups and policy environments played a significant role in their respective recoveries, and each of the top five hailed from Republican-led states.
“Domestic migration and other patterns that emerged after the onset of COVID-19 have had meaningful impacts on US cities,” said Maggie Switek, Ph.D., director of regional economics in the Milken Institute’s Research Department. “One such shift has been the movement of high-tech businesses to smaller cities and out of Silicon Valley.”
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Here are the best-performing large cities in America according to the Milken Institute’s 2023 index:
1. Provo, Utah
Utah’s Provo and Orem metro area claimed the top spot for large cities on the index for the third year in a row, largely due to its strong five-year job and wage growth along with its robust high-tech sector, the analysis determined.
The study credited Brigham Young University for helping to boost its home city’s success, saying Provo benefits from the institution’s reputation and contribution to the qualified workforce. Provo’s emergence as a thriving tech hub has even earned it the nickname “Silicon Slopes.”
2. Austin, Texas
The city of Austin, Texas, claimed the No. 2 spot for the second consecutive year, ranking 4th in both job growth and wage growth from 2016-21. The study found Austin also bounced back remarkably well from the pandemic, with job growth third in the nation for 2020-21.
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The researchers also credited Austin and Round Rock’s tech scene with driving its growth, and noted the metro has the highest number of households with broadband internet in the country.
3. Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina, surged 13 spots to rank No. 3 on 2023’s list of top performing large cities, and analysts attributed its rebound to boosts in all five measures of job and wage growth.
The city ranks 7th in the number of high-tech industries, and its workforce benefits from the high-skilled graduates of its three major universities within the Research Triangle: North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
4. Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville also saw a significant rise in the rankings for 2023, jumping 25 spots to reach No. 3 this year in large thanks to its surge in short-term job growth between October 2021 and October 2022.
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Researchers pointed out high-tech job growth in the metro area – including the cities of Davidson, Murfreesboro and Franklin – which has outpaced the national average by upwards of nine points for the past five yeas.
5. Boise City, Idaho
Boise’s rapid job and wage growth over the past five years pushed it up 10 places to No. 5 in this year’s list, thanks in part to it reaching second in job growth from 2016-21.
While the area has also seen a surge in population as West Coasters have flocked to the city for its lower cost of living, it is still among the most affordable housing markets among the major metros.
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The Milken Institute’s study also ranked smaller cities for their performance, and found GOP-led states topped the chart for economic growth in lower-population areas.
“The report also highlights the importance of business-friendly environments and of maintaining a diversified economy,” Switek said. “Notably, many of this year’s top-performing cities are in North Carolina, Texas, and Florida, which are all known for policy and tax environments that favor businesses.”