Energy, technology and manufacturing are the biggest drivers of new job growth in the U.S. — that’s the consensus of a new study conducted by economist Joel Kotkin. Using employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kotkin tracked job growth in 398 metros over the past 12 years, discovering some revealing trends. Among them:
•The return of the private sector. The government used to be the nation’s biggest source of jobs, but that is changing. For the first time since the recession, jobs in the private sector outpaced the public sector in 2011. More than half of the metros surveyed showed a decline in government jobs and an average 1.4 percent increase in private sector employment. Not only is this trend becoming apparent in government-dependent locales like Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md. and state capitals, it is even extending to once recession-proof military and college towns, where federal and state budget constraints are taking their toll.
•The surge in tech. With the rise in social media and a recent influx in private-equity investment, times are good for tech companies. The center of the tech bubble, Silicon Valley, ranked fifth among the 65 biggest metro areas for job growth. But the upturn in this sector isn’t confined to California. The biggest gains are happening in cities less dependent on venture capital such as Austin, where Apple is expanding to the tune of an $308 million investment and 3,600 jobs, Raleigh-Cary, N.C., Nashville, where consumer technology protection provider Asurion recently added 500 jobs.
•The revival of manufacturing. While the manufacturing sector is still a long way from recouping the jobs it shed over the past decade, a small but significant resurgence is under way. In 2011, manufacturing expanded at three times the rate of the overall GDP, adding 425,000 jobs — above the national average. Rust Belt cities like Columbus, Ind. and Grand Rapids, Mich. are rising to the top of job growth lists once again.
All of these trends are present in the regions topping Kotkin’s lists for the best large, medium and small cities for jobs in 2012. What region had the best showing across all lists? Why, Texas, of course. Its energy-rich cities like Odessa, Midland and Corpus Christi have fueled some 200,000 jobs in the high-paying gas and oil sector, but Texas cities like Houston and Fort Worth also continue to lead in manufacturing and tech-related services.
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