It’s been six years since the Great Recession technically ended.
Since then, job numbers have come back up, and unemployment has gone back down. In April 2014, the Bureau of Labour Statistics announced that the number of US private sector jobs had finally returned to their pre-crash peak.
But not all cities have recovered equally.
“We know every city was hit hard,” says Glassdoor’s chief economist, Andrew Chamberlain, who’s been looking at which areas are still struggling six years later, and which places are now booming.
The short answer: Go West, young man. Of the top 10 cities on Glassdoor’s “Recovery Index,” seven are in the Western states, and five of the top 15 are in Texas alone.
Chamberlain looked at three criteria to get his ranking: how much the unemployment rate has dropped in the years since 2009, how much job growth each city has seen since 2009, and how much wages have increased since 2009.
That doesn’t tell us everything. “It doesn’t tell us anything about the inequalities in cities, for example,” he notes. “It doesn’t tell us about side-lined workers who have left the labour force.” And it doesn’t look at where cities were before the recession; what we’re looking at here is the growth (or lack thereof) that’s happened since then.
The three indicators still paint a pretty good picture of recovery, Chamberlain tells Business Insider. Based on those metrics, here are the top 15 cities that have rebounded the most since the recession:
1. Midland, Texas (-2.7% unemployment since 2009, 30% job growth, 27% wage growth)
2. Odessa, Texas (-4.6% unemployment, 26% job growth, 20% wage growth)
3. San Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara, California (-6.3% unemployment, 25% job growth, 14% wage growth)
4. Greeley, Colorado (-3.9% unemployment, 28% job growth, 7% wage growth)
5. Provo-Orem, Utah (-3.8% unemployment, 24% job growth, 10% wage growth)
6. Laredo, Texas (-4.0% unemployment, 24% job growth, 9% wage growth)
7. Houston – The Woodlands – Sugar Land, Texas (-3.3% unemployment, 19% job growth, 13% wage increase)
8. Ames, Iowa (-2.3% unemployment, 21% job growth, 12% wage growth)
9. Charlotte – Concord – Gastonia, North Carolina-South Carolina (-6.5% unemployment, 19% job growth, 10% wage growth)
10. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (-2.4% unemployment, 19% job growth, 14% wage growth)
11. Naples – Immokalee – Marco Island, Florida (-6.2% unemployment, 23% job growth, 5% wage growth)
12. Austin – Round Rock, Texas (-3.6% unemployment, 23% job growth, 7% wage growth)
13. Columbia, Missouri (-2.3% unemployment, 16% job growth, 13% wage growth)
14. Raleigh, North Carolina (-4.1% unemployment, 18% job growth, 9% wage growth)
15. Burlington, North Carolina (-6.7% unemployment, 17% job growth, 8% wage growth)
What to make of it? “This is an oil and gas story,” Chamberlain says, bluntly. Midland, Odessa, and Greeley all top the list thanks to the boom in hydraulic fracking, according to Chamberlain.
San Jose, Provo, Charlotte, and Raleigh, meanwhile, are all “places where there have been technology booms,” he continues. San Jose is obvious because it’s the center of tech, but Provo has a powerful start up culture, too, as do Charlotte and Raleigh.
“All the cities in which the tech industries is growing fast have universities nearby that feed skilled workers into those companies,” he says. But while tech depends on a constant flow of new graduates, the oil and gas industries are “quite a different story,” demographically speaking.
In Midland and Odessa, for example, there’s a tremendous need for oil field service workers coming from blue-collar trade backgrounds.
It’s not necessarily surprising the oil, gas, and tech industries are fuelling growth in these 15 cities, but the data here does provide an important lesson, according to Chamberlain: “All labour markets are local.” Midland, Texas, can have a robust economy even while the economy in Ocean City, New Jersey, flails. (Ocean City comes in last on the list, coming in at number 327).
That’s information you can act on: You can’t control economic trends, but you can — to some degree, at least — control where you live. “The rapid migration away from cities like Detroit and toward cities like Phoenix in recent years largely reflects this type of migration: workers moving away from poorly performing cities toward areas with rapidly growing job markets,” he says.
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