Cities power a country’s economy. After Business Insider ranked all 50 state economies, we decided to turn our attention to America’s big cities.
We ranked 354 metropolitan areas based on 2013 GDP per capita, December 2014 unemployment rates, Q2 2014 average weekly wages, change in housing prices between Q4 2013 and Q4 2014, and 2013 poverty rates and combined those into a composite index.
While we didn’t factor them into the ranking, we also took a look at the Fortune 500 companies headquartered in each metro area and what industries had a large or disproportionate share of employment.
For more details on our methodology and sources, click here.
The Seattle metropolitan area includes the headquarters of several Fortune 500 companies, including the tech giants Amazon and Microsoft. In addition to the massive software companies that call Seattle home, Boeing has one of its main airliner assembly plants in Everett, Washington, about 25 miles north of Seattle, and is a major employer in the metro area.
Seattle had the 10th-highest average weekly wage among metro areas, at $US1,143, and its GDP per capita of $US78,936 was 11th highest.
North Dakota had the strongest state economy in the country, fuelled by the Bakken shale oil and gas boom, and its capital is also doing quite well.
Bismarck's 8.3% poverty rate was the seventh lowest among cities, and its unemployment rate of 3.0% was tied for 11th lowest.
Exxon Mobil Corp., the second-largest company in the world, has its headquarters in Irving, Texas, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area. Other Fortune 500 companies based in and around Dallas include AT&T, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.
Dallas had a high average weekly wage of $US1,042 and a solid GDP per capita of $US65,714. Housing prices also had a healthy growth rate of 9.5% between Q4 2013 and Q4 2014.
Salt Lake City has a highly diversified economy, with many large firms having a presence in the city. Salt Lake City is also home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and is the capital and largest city in Utah.
Salt Lake City's 3.0% unemployment rate was among the lowest in the country, and the metro area's GDP per capita of $US66,801 was well above average.
Unsurprisingly, the federal government is the largest employer in the D.C. metro area. Social advocacy and professional organisations also have an outsize share of employment in the capital.
The capital area had the seventh-highest average weekly wage of $US1,212 and the eighth-lowest poverty rate at 8.5%. Its GDP per capita of $US77,792 was the 12th highest among the metro areas.
Austin is a big high-tech center, with numerous companies having R&D and manufacturing centres in the area.
Austin scored fairly well overall on our metrics. Housing prices went up 10.6% between Q4 2013 and Q4 2014, and the average weekly wage was a healthy $US995.
Boston is a huge educational hub, with several major colleges and universities in the metro area. Accordingly, scientific research and development has an outsize share of employment in and around Boston.
Boston's GDP per capita of $US79,151 was the ninth highest among the metro areas, and correspondingly its average weekly wage was the fifth highest at $US1,252.
The San Jose metro area, southeast of San Francisco Bay, is the beating heart of the tech industry. Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Cisco are just a few of the tech giants who call Silicon Valley home.
San Jose had the highest average weekly wage of any metro area of $US1,920, and its GDP per capita was the second highest in the country at $US102,534. The unemployment rate of 4.6% was a bit more middle of the road, however, keeping San Jose from the very top of the list.
Anchored by the University of Colorado's flagship campus, Boulder has a large tech and science sector. Electronic-instrument manufacturing, software publishing, and scientific research all command far larger shares of the metro area's economy than they do in the US as a whole.
Boulder's unemployment rate of 3.0% was tied for 11th lowest among the cities, and the average weekly wage of $US1,121 was also 11th best. Respectable rankings on our other measures put Boulder in the very top tier of metro areas.
Denver is a mountain metropolis. Fortune 500 companies DISH Network and Western Union have their headquarters in the Denver metro area.
The Denver metro area scored well all around. The city's GDP per capita of $US66,306, average weekly wage of $US1,062, and year-over-year 10.2% increase in housing prices were all in the top decile among the metro areas.
As in neighbouring San Jose, tech is huge in San Francisco. Software publishers, scientific research and development, pharmaceuticals, and computer-systems design all have disproportionate shares of employment in the San Francisco metro area.
San Francisco had the third-highest average weekly wage of $US1,399 and the fifth-highest GDP per capita at $US85,972. The housing market continues to explode, with prices rising 11.2% year-over-year.
Like neighbouring Odessa, Midland sits in the heart of the Permian Basin, the most active oil-producing region in the United States. The shale boom of the past few years pushed the metro area's economy to the top of our ranking.
Midland had the lowest unemployment rate, at just 2.1%. The metro area also had by far the largest GDP per capita at $US159,504. Average weekly wages were fourth best among the cities we looked at, at $US1,299.
Putting these oil-fuelled numbers together, Midland had the strongest metro area economy in the country.
It's worth noting, however, that the recent crash in oil prices is likely putting some pressure on the region. We'll have to see if Midland makes this list next time.
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