America's Job Hotspots

Kate Lorenz, Editor

Looking for a new job? Think about heading to the Sunshine State. For the second year in a row, Florida metropolitan areas dominate the Milken Institute Best Performing Cities Index, a measurement of where jobs are being created in America.

The 2005 Index's top three metro areas adding jobs at rapid pace are in Florida, led by this year's top-ranked metro, Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, followed by last year's top scorer, Cape Coral-Fort Myers, and Naples-Marco Island, in third place.

The Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville area is located near the John F. Kennedy Space Center and has a diversified economy with many aerospace and defense-related industries, as well as space-related tourism and a growing number of retirees.

Even severe hurricane seasons could not topple Florida's growth trends. The state's metros hold not just the index's top three slots, but five of its top six and 12 of its top 30.

"The state is creating jobs at a prodigious rate," said Ross DeVol, the Institute's director of Regional Economics and the report's lead author. "It has all the makings of a job-creating machine: good weather, low costs, a growing population, a strong tourism industry and little heavy manufacturing."

The index ranks U.S. metros based on their ability to create and sustain jobs. It includes both long-term (five years) and short-term (one year) measurements of job, wage and salary, and technology growth.

The 2005 winners have similar characteristics: strong and growing service sectors, a robust recovery in tourism, growing populations and an increase in the number of retirees. As evidence, six metros in the top 20 come from the Southwest, including three in California (Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Ana) and two in Arizona (Tucson and Phoenix). The other is Las Vegas.

By comparison, the Midwest has none. The top-rated Midwest metro is Madison, Wis., at 35th. Nine of the bottom 10 spots on the index were from the Midwest -- five from Michigan and four from Ohio -- reflecting the region's troubled manufacturing sector. Flint, Mich., is at the bottom at No. 200.

Big-Cities' Rankings:
The top 10 performers of the 200 largest metros:

1. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.
2. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.
3. Naples-Marco Island, Fla.
4. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
5. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Fla.
6. Orlando-Kissimmee, Fla.
7. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-Va.-Md.-W.Va.
8. Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark.-Mo.
9. Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, Fla.
10. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Ca.

Thanks to the presence of the federal government and a dramatic increase in the growth of technology firms in the region, the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is the highest-ranked of America's largest 10 cities, at No. 7, followed by Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. at No. 10 and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. at No. 15.

Small-Cities' Rankings:
In what amounts to a clean sweep, another Florida metro -- Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin -- also ranked No. 1 on the Institute's separate listing of America's smallest 179 metros, followed by Bend, Ore. (2), and Prescott, Ariz. (3).

1. Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin, Fla.
2. Bend, Ore.
3. Prescott, Ariz.
4. Panama City-Lynn Haven, Fla.
5. St. George, Utah
6. Madera, Calif.
7. Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, Wash.
8. Logan, Utah-Idaho
9. Yuma, Ariz.
10. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

The biggest movers from last year were Bremerton-Silverdale, Wash., which moved up 104 places (122nd to 18th), and Newark-Union, N.J.-Penn., which dropped 101 spots (39th to 140th).

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