By Ellen Cutter, Director of Research.
Last month, The Business Journals called to our attention the fact that only a handful of metros have reached pre-recession employment levels. Of the nation’s 102 largest metro areas, only 14 have registered any sort of a net gain. Market Street client, metro Austin ranked #1 in private sector job growth at 7.5% (45,800 jobs created) and ACCE 2013 conference host Oklahoma City came it at #4 (3.5%, 16,100 jobs created). Overall, 10 of the 14 metros are located in, you guessed it, the South.
I’m a near lifelong Midwesterner, and in economic development circles I have taken a fair share of ribbing from Southern colleagues who do not understand my unabashed love for and defense of the Midwest. We have the Cubs, Rust-Belty cool old buildings, better transportation options, and, as theWall Street Journal reported last year, a comparable cost of doing business. What’s not to love? (Don’t say snow, because some of us like that too, you know).
I was curious about how the Midwest’s competitive position would look if all MSAs were examined, not just the largest. Using The Business Journals research as a starting point, I did a little more digging in the BLS numbers and found that many of the Midwest’s smaller metros are recovering economically. More specifically, I looked at both (1) total non-farm employment and (2) private sector employment changes for the last year (December 2011 – December 2012, the most recent month available) and since the onset of the Great Recession (November 2007). Here are my personal top-five highlights:
- Bismarck, ND: In 2009, we facilitated a community vision plan for Mandan, the second largest city in the Bismarck MSA. For those of you who have not had a chance to travel to the Dakotas: go! Bismarck itself is a very dynamic region, and with the stimulus the oil and gas boom has weathered the Great Recession with hardly a blip.
Private sector employment: since Nov ’07, # 3 of 366 metros nationwide (+14.2% or 6,898 jobs), 1-year, #16 (+4.8% or 2,535 jobs)
- Springfield, IL: Illinois’ capital city, Springfield has one of highest concentrations of government employment in the country, due to a relatively shallow pool of private sector jobs. Its leaders have been working on ways to diversify the economy and, as the BLS figures show, the private sector has recovered from the recession’s losses. While the metro took a hit over the last year, its longer term performance since the recession puts it in the top quintile of U.S. metros.
Private sector employment: since Nov ’07, #55 (+1.2% or 1,013 jobs), 1-year, #316 (-0.6% or -418 jobs).
- Sioux Falls, SD: Sioux Falls is one of those places that you have to see to believe. It is way cooler and more diverse than most people not familiar with the region would guess. It is a health care powerhouse but maintains a relatively diversified economy and steady population growth. The state’s tax structure provides a significant competitive advantage.
Private sector employment: since Nov ’07, #28 (3.4% or +4,147 jobs), 1-year, #109 (+2.4% or 3,005 jobs)
- Springfield, MO: Springfield is a great city with some impressive assets, including its revitalizing downtown area. In 2010 we helped facilitate an economic development strategic plan for their Chamber. While overall employment is just shy of where it was at pre-recession, one-year total non-farm job growth has been notable signaling confidence and investment in the market.
Total non-farm employment: since Nov ’07, #93 (-0.2% or -500 jobs), 1-year, #50 (+3.1% or 6,000 jobs)
- Manhattan, KS: While private sector employment has not yet reached pre-recession levels in the Manhattan metro area, overall employment has thanks to large public-sector institutions like Kansas State University and Fort Riley. This small metro located west of Kansas City is a top five MSA for 1-year total non-farm job growth. Who knew?
Private sector employment: since Nov ’07, #225 (-5.3% or -1,971 jobs) , 1-year, #146 (+1.8% or 623 jobs)
Total non-farm employment: since Nov ’07, #35(+2.7% or 1,514 jobs), 1-year, #5 (+5% or 2,914 jobs)