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Hottest small cities for jobs

Bizjournals ranks the best and worst small-city job markets across America.
First \"Digital\" Houses Go On Sale In Utah
For smaller towns of less than 50,000 jobs, the hottest job market is St. George, Utah, where job growth is 7.1 percent. George Frey / Getty Images file

The job market couldn't be better in some areas of the country.

Two areas in Florida, Cape Coral-Fort Myers and Naples are the hottest job markets in mid-sized markets, those with between 100,000 and 250,000 jobs, according to the latest job market rankings from bizjournals and American City Business Journals.

"The major story in these places is very rapid population growth, with retirees, seasonal residents and tourists coming in," says Mark Vitner, senior economist with Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte, N.C.

"That has really set off a building boom," he says. "There's a mad rush to build infrastructure. And all the services that benefit from increasing population -- financial services, retail trade, health care -- are all doing well."

If those cities are too big, check Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where job growth is 5.9 percent. It's the hottest job market of between 50,000 and 100,000 jobs.

For smaller towns of less than 50,000 jobs, the hottest job market is St. George, Utah, where job growth is 7.1 percent.

Coeur d'Alene and St. George are growing as folks leave the big metro areas of California and move inland.

"A lot of people and businesses want to be located in small towns. And for a long time, they really couldn't do that. They had to be close to where the action was," says Larry Swanson, director of the Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.

The Internet has helped make smaller towns more accessible, while California's problems have made them more desirable, Swanson says.

"Population began spilling into the Interior West in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and what triggered the change was that the California economy wasn't working," he says. "California had always been the magnet drawing people to the West. When its magnetism dropped off, people started looking elsewhere."

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 278 smaller areas, those with less than 250,000 jobs each, collectively account for about a quarter of the nation's total employment.

American City Business Journals, Inc.