The reflecting pool at the Winspear Opera House in the Arts District of Dallas
By Joel Kotkin and Michael Shires
Dallas is called the Big D for a reason. Bigger, better, best: that’s the Dallas mindset. From the gigantic Cowboys stadium in Arlington to the burgeoning northern suburbs to the posh Arts District downtown, Dallasites are reinventing their metropolis almost daily. The proposed urban park along the Trinity River, my Dallas friends remind me, will be 11 times bigger than New York’s Central Park.
Here’s something else for them to boast about: the Dallas-Plano-Irving metropolitan area ranks first this year on our list of the Best Cities For Jobs.
It’s a region that in many ways is the polar opposite of the San Francisco and San Jose metropolitan areas, which have dominated our ranking for the last few years. (They still place second and eighth this year, respectively, among the largest 70 metropolitan areas, though San Jose is down sharply from second place last year.)
Unlike the tech-driven Bay Area, Dallas’ economy has multiple points of strength, including aerospace and defense, insurance, financial services, life sciences, data processing and transportation. Employment in the metro area has expanded 20.3% over the past five years and 4.2% last year, with robust job creation in professional and business services, as well as in a host of lower-paid sectors like retail, wholesale trade and hospitality.
According to Southern Methodist University’s Klaus Desmet and Collin Clark, Dallas’s success stems in part from the fact that it isn’t looking to appeal to the elite “creative class,” but to middle-class workers and the companies and executives who employ them. Dallas attracts both foreign and domestic migrants, particularly from places like California, where housing is, on an income-adjusted basis, often three times as expensive. This has had much to do with the relocation to the area of such companies as Jacobs Engineering, Toyota, Liberty Mutual and State Farm.
Our rankings are based on short-, medium- and long-term job creation, going back to 2005, and factor in momentum — whether growth is slowing or accelerating. We have compiled separate rankings for America’s 70 largest metropolitan statistical areas (those with nonfarm employment over 450,000), which are our focus this week, as well as medium-size metro areas (between 150,000 and 450,000 nonfarm jobs) and small ones (less than 150,000 nonfarm jobs) in order to make the comparisons more relevant to each category. (For a detailed description of our methodology, click here.)
The Rise Of Low-Cost Meccas
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. Among them is No. 3 Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn.
The metro area has seen rapid job growth, nearly 20.6% since 2011. Last year job growth was across the board, including a 4.1% expansion in manufacturing employment, 5.2% in business professional services, and 2.9% in the information sector.
Like Dallas, Nashville has become a mecca for companies looking to relocate operations. Some, like UBS, are fleeing the high cost of places like New York or London. Others, like Lyft, are escaping high costs in coastal California. CKE Restaurants, owner of Carl’s Junior and Hardees, is moving operations from coastal California and St. Louis to set up shop in Nashville. All are bringing a diverse new range of jobs to the Music City.