We’re in the worst economy since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economy shrank 4.1 percent from 2007 to 2009, the jobless rate doubled to 10.1 percent, and the recovery has been painstakingly slow.
Still, there are some cities that either somehow shielded themselves from the worst of the recession, or managed to muddle through it with some degree of success – and become leaders of job creation in the process. So which cities are leading the pack? Look below:
1. Austin, Texas
It’s official: Texas is where it’s at these days. Austin, the epicenter of young hipsterdom, seems to have narrowly evaded the most brutal effects of the recession, thanks in part to its state capital status, growing tech sector, and huge research presence (The University of Texas, Austin.) Consistently ranking at the top of nearly all 2010 surveys on job growth (link), Austin has a low dependence on tourism and durable goods manufacturing, and managed to slip past the housing crisis that devastated other major metropolitan areas. Samsung, Apple, Google, and Facebook are expected to add more jobs in 2011.
2. Fargo, North Dakota
Fargo: There’s more going on than you’d expect in this small, midwestern town. Fargo boasted one of the highest job growth percentages in 2010, according to the Milken Institute’s recent study. The unemployment rate was 4 percent — much smaller than the national average of around 10 percent — and local incomes have increased in the past few years. Fargo’s business-friendly atmosphere (tax credits for use of clean energy like wind and solar) and the growing global demand for certain agricultural crops make it a leader in small-city job creation.
3. Raleigh, North Carolina
The capital of North Carolina placed third overall in a Milken study of job growth in the United States. Raleigh’s hugely successful hi-tech enterprises in biotechnology, information technology, and software development have cemented its status as one of the new“Silicon Valleys.” And the presence of Duke University and North Carolina State University make it attractive for tech- and research-oriented businesses to start up there — and create even more jobs.
4. Washington, D.C.
Largely shielded from the economic collapse, federal dollars and a high concentration of public-sector, state government jobs make our nation’s capital a prime contender for job creation. Forbes writes that, overall, “Public employment grew by nearly 2 percent over the past three years, while private employment has dropped by 7percent” — and one-third of all stimulus money went to state and local governments. Washington, D.C. should remain economically sound for years to come.
5. Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City, a low-cost small city, is a small business’ dream. The city has attracted a steady slew of new residents over the past few years — as well as new tech start ups and manufacturing firms. Newsweek names it one of the “Top 10 Places in America Poised for Recovery,” noting that it’s the home of Adobe, Twitter, and Electronic Arts — and 75 percent of residents can afford median-priced homes.
6. Anchorage, Alaska
Alaska’s vibrant energy sector — and consistently high oil prices — make it a consistent, high-performing industry competitor and creator of jobs. The state received the second highest percentage of stimulus funds per capita, and its largest city, Anchorage, has an unemployment rate of just 5.6 percent. The robust economy is bolstered by a strong military presence, and tourism.
7. Houston, Texas
Yep, it’s Texas again. But we shouldn’t be surprised — Texas has more Fortune 500 companies than any other state — 58, to be exact). Energy, international trade (it’s proximal to the Gulf of Mexico, and houses many giant oil companies — including Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, etc.) and medical-services businesses make up Houston’s strong economy, and immigration is rising — so expect competition!