More people mean more jobs. Or maybe, more jobs mean more people. Who knows?
"People like to be in a place that's doing well, which is certainly the case in Las Vegas and Phoenix," says Howard Wall, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "But is job growth causing people to move there? Or is population growth creating more jobs? I don't think the two can be separated."
Las Vegas and Phoenix are the hottest job markets in the nation, according to the latest rankings from bizjournals and American City Business Journals. Rapid growth in their population and job bases, coupled with low unemployment rates, have propelled Las Vegas to first place and Phoenix to No. 2 among America's 87 major labor markets:
- Las Vegas' workforce expanded by 7.7 percent during the past year, creating 62,700 jobs. No other major market grew faster than 5.6 percent.
- Phoenix picked up 62,800 jobs in the same 12-month period and cut its unemployment rate by more than half a percentage point.
Washington, D.C. which is No. 3 in ACBJ's rankings, added the most jobs during the past year, 78,400.
"The reason is federal procurement spending. That's what's driving job growth here," says Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University.
The federal government annually purchases roughly $50 billion of goods and services from more than 11,500 businesses in the Washington area. That spending has been growing by $6 billion per year because of the government's increased needs for homeland-security help.
Rounding out the top five are two Florida markets, Sarasota and Orlando. Their respective job-growth rates of 5.6 percent and 4.1 percent dwarf the median rate for major markets, 1.2 percent.
At the very bottom of the nation's biggest job markets is Detroit, which lost 6,400 jobs during the past 12 months, the sharpest decline in any labor market. Its dismal unemployment rate of 7.7 percent is surpassed only by Fresno's 8.4 percent.
Bizjournals and American City analyzed the employment situations in 367 markets, ranging from New York City with 8.4 million jobs to Hinesville, Ga., with 16,600. The 87 biggest areas, those with more than 250,000 jobs each, collectively account for about three-quarters of the nation's total employment.