Seattle ranked 9th best in “Best Cities for Jobs 2017” report; Heartland cities show increased strength

The Seattle metro area gained two spots in the 2017 Best Cities for Jobs report published in Forbes magazine. The report, produced by Joel Kotkin and Michael Shires, also appears on the New Geography website, with links to tables and supporting documentation. 

Metropolitan Seattle  continues to buck a trend emphasized by Kotkin and Shires: “The Rise of Low Cost Meccas.” In reviewing their findings, the authors note:

Dallas is far bigger (particularly if you add the neighboring 28th-ranked Ft. Worth-Arlington area to the mix) than any of the other metro areas that have prospered by offering cheaper alternatives to coastal cities, with lower taxes and generally more friendly business climates.

Seattle, as we reported earlier, led the nation in GDP growth in 2016. Kotkin and Shires write, it’s is among a small group of cities thriving despite rising costs. In part, that’s because the region’s close competitors are even more expensive.

Some thriving metro areas on our list are becoming increasingly expensive, but they still don’t pack the tax and housing punch associated with blue state economies. No. 7 Austin-Round Rock, No. 9 Seattle-Bellevue-Everett and No. 11 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood have been big beneficiaries of the tech boom, and continue to attract migrants from areas like the Bay Area, where housing prices are still twice as high.

They caution,

It seems that some areas located in pro-business, low-tax states are increasingly attracting the educated millennials that we usually associate with places like San Francisco, Brooklyn or West L.A. Since 2010, among educated millennials, the fastest growth in migration has been to such lower-cost regions as Atlanta, Orlando, New Orleans, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth.

Over time, this migration could restructure the geography of job growth. As the middle class, particularly those of child-bearing age, continue moving out of states like California and into states like Texas. Utah or The Carolinas, the geography of skills changes. New families, a critical engine of job growth, are far more likely to form in Salt Lake City, the four large Texas metropolitan areas, or Atlanta, than in the bluest metropolitan areas like New York, Seattle, Los Angeles or San Francisco , where the number of school-age children trend well below the national average.

Ultimately, we may be on the cusp of a new economic era in which the cost of housing and living becomes once again a key determinant in regional growth.

Kotkin, with co-author Michael Lind and other contributors, also develops this theme in an longer report, The New American Heartland. From the introduction

The New Heartland incorporates the old Midwest and much of the South. Alongside it, the new continental periphery consists of the mountain and desert spine of North America from Mexico through to Canada, a region that is likely to remain thinly populated and devoted to resource extraction, tourism and wilderness preservation.

While every region contributes to American prosperity, the New American Heartland has the potential to play an outsized role in powering economic growth in the twenty-first century.

The authors add,

One common assumption by coastal pundits has been that growth will cluster in areas often considered ‘brain centers,’ while the Heartland states will attract those, native born or immigrant, without degrees or preferred skills. This suggests that while some people may move to less expensive areas, elite industries and their employees will remain concentrated in the coastal cities.

Yet, a recent analysis of 2014 IRS data shows that more households with incomes over $100,000 annually are leaving states with strong information technology and financial industries than are arriving. These places include California, New York and its New Jersey and Connecticut suburbs, Massachusetts, and the Washington, DC area (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia). At the same time, more are arriving than leaving the New Heartland states of Texas, Florida, and Tennessee.

We recommend reading the full New Heartland report. It’s not long and provides a good assessment of one of the regions competing with our state. Our foundation report contains a reminder that we cannot take prosperity for granted. Outside metro Seattle, many counties and communities continue to struggle with high unemployment. And,

Even in the economically strong metro areas, policymakers cannot take continued prosperity for granted. Economies are always evolving and growth must be nurtured. New, innovative enterprises have choices of where to locate, and other states will attempt to lure them away by offering more attractive economic climates. Washington must be prepared to compete on at least a level playing field.

The New Heartland and Best Cities for Jobs report confirm that the competition is real.