America’s Fastest-Growing Cities 2018

Boise City, Idaho is enjoying some of swiftest growth in the country. In 2017, it exceeded expansion expectations by nearly every metric that matters. It’s population of around 220,000 grew 3.08% in 2017, more than any other major metro. Employment increased 3.58%, the second strongest growth around. Home prices, a proxy for wealth, increased 11.58%–number four in the U.S. Meanwhile, wage and the broader economic growth far outpaced national averages.

All this earns the city and the surrounding metropolitan area the no. 1 spot on Forbes’ 2018 list of America’s fastest-growing cities. Moody’s Analytics–which provides the data for this annual project–is forecasting that Boise will continue its growth spurt this year, albeit more modestly.

While Boise “is not necessarily a place you would associate with really robust growth,” notes Adam Kamins a senior economist at Moody’s, “it’s got the pieces in place. It’s has got the location, it’s got low cost, a healthy tech presence.”

In fact, Kamins argues that Boise is benefiting from a third wave of tech dislocation. First there was the San Francisco Bay Area, next up were places like Seattle and Denver. As more people get priced out of housing in those cities, they are looking to more affordable places like Boise and Austin, Texas (no. 8 on our list).

(It’s likely no coincidence that Boise also earned a spot on our 2017 list of the Best Cities For Young Professionals.)

Meanwhile, cities from other areas of the South and the West make up most of the rest of the list. Florida dominates our list with seven of the 25 fastest-growing cities, more than any other state. The reason? Demographics. As the U.S. population ages, more people are moving to the state’s longstanding retiree havens. Texas comes in second with five cities, thanks in part to demographics and part demand from tech companies.

Behind the Numbers

The goal of Forbes’ annual list of America’s fastest-growing cities is to give a holistic picture of places on the upswing. That means looking not just at job, population or output growth individually, but considering how these important measures and others come together. It means looking back to see which cities grew the most in 2017 and forward to project which cities will make strides in 2018.

Moody’s Analytics provides the data and has helped us hone the methodology over the years. For each of the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the United States (including divisions), Moody’s provides growth rates in five key areas:

Population—using data from the U.S. Census BureauEmployment—using non-farm employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ establishment surveyWages—using data from the Bureau of Economic AnalysisOutput—using real gross metro product data from BEA and BLSHome values—as a proxy for household wealth, using home price growth from Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Moody’s provided 2017 growth rates (mostly estimates until the last of the data come in) and 2018 projections. Forbes ranked the 100 metro areas by each of the 10 data sets (five metrics times two years) and equally weighted the results of each to get a composite ranking.

Leaders and Laggards

Jobs. North Port, Fla.–no. 13 overall–had the strongest 2017 job growth of the 100 largest metro areas in the country. Employment grew 3.99% in the city, which took the no. 6 spot on the last edition of this list.This year job growth is expected to slow, but to remain relatively strong at 2.64%. On the other end of the 100 city spectrum is Akron, Ohio. Employment declined 0.46% in the city perhaps best known as Lebron James’ hometown. Moody’s expects the employment situation there to improve modestly in 2018.

National job growth 2017: 1.58% 2018: 1.52%

Wages. Residents of the Seattle metro got the biggest raise in the country last year, with wages increasing 7.52% in the city that Amazon and other tech giants call home. Wage growth is expected to slow this year in Seattle–but only modestly to 6.92%. Seattle was one of just two cities with 2017 wage growth above 7%. The other is San Jose, Calif., which just missed making the overall list. Across the country, however, wage growth has been slow to appear.

National wage growth 2017: 3.15% 2018: 5.43%

Wealth. Economists, including those at Moody’s, often use home price growth as a proxy for wealth growth since a home is most peoples’ biggest asset—especially middle class people. In 2017 home prices grew a staggering 13.617% in Seattle. That means, as in most of the nation, home price growth has been outpacing wage growth. Home price growth, which has been soaring across the country for over two years, is expected to slow in 2018–though the housing market has long been thwarting expectations.

National housing price growth 2017: 6.14% 2018: 3.39%

Output. Austin, Texas, a fixture on lists like this these days, had the largest increase in real gross metropolitan product last year at 4.94%. GMP is like gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the country, but on the metro level. Next year Austin’s output is expected to gain 4.79%.

National GDP growth 2017: 2.26% 2018: 2.92%

Population. Among large metro areas, population change ranged from 3.08% growth in Boise to a 0.34% decline in Detroit. Among the top 25 metro areas on our list, Grand Rapid, had the lowest population growth last year at 1.17%.

National population growth 2017: 0.72% 2018: 0.71%

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