City Beat

Austin overtakes Dallas on ranking of America's best performing cities

Austin overtakes Dallas on ranking of America's best performing cities

Austin City Art festival
"Look at that, honey — it's the third best performing city in the U.S." Photo courtesy of Austin Art Alliance

A new study into America's best performing cities reveals that, once again, Austin is one of the country's top spots for jobs.

The annual report, which was released on January 24 by the Milken Institute, an independent, California-based think tank, studies economic expansion of 200 American cities who "create jobs and prosperity with their policy choices and their industrial, workforce, and innovation assets."

The study then uses indexes from job creation, wage gains, technological developments, and characteristics unique to each city to rank each region in terms of economic health. 

Austin-Round Rock
Austin-Round Rock landed in the No. 3 spot, climbing six places from last year and unseating Dallas-Plano-Irving, which fell to No. 5. As far as its highest performing growth metrics, the Austin region ranked fourth for job growth and fifth for wage growth. 

"A remarkably consistent high performer, the Austin-Round Rock region has now claimed a spot in the top five for nine of the last 10 Best-Performing Cities indexes, earning the top honors in 2009 and 2013," said the release.

As the study points out, Austin's technology sector is booming, accounting for more than 103,000 jobs in the region. Those positions — and the wages that come with them — lead to an increase in consumer spending, especially among Austin's booming bar, restaurant, and hospitality sectors. 

Another attractive quality, says the study, is Austin's reputation as a university town. Forty-five percent of Austinites over 25 have at least a bachelor's degree, and the presence of graduate schools like The University of Texas at Austin's Dell Medical School point to advances in both the education and innovation sectors. 

But, of course, with the sweet comes the sour. This boom has (as we know all too well) led to an increase in housing costs and disproportionate distribution of economic opportunities. As the report points out, the success of City of Austin policies to address these issues will ultimately determine the city's future (and its future ranking). 

As mentioned, the metroplex took a teensy tumble in 2018, falling two spots to No. 5.

"Although the metro did not place in the top 10 for any of our growth metrics, the combination of a robust and diverse high-tech industry and solid growth in jobs and wages across all the one-year, five-year, and short-term job growth measures reveals the broad-based vitality of the Dallas-Plano-Irving regional economy," boasts the report. 

And while it didn't nab a top 10 spot for any growth metrics, Dallas did walk away with another important superlative. Between 2012-17, the Big D added 14,000 management positions, the most of any city in the U.S.

Dallas also ranked second for professional, scientific, and technical service jobs added in that same time period. 

San Antonio
At No. 32, San Antonio-New Braunfels made a shocking drop in 2018, falling 13 spots from last year.

Like Dallas, San Antonio didn't land in the top 10 for any growth metrics, but the city made good showings in high tech GDP growth (17th), job growth (28th), and wage growth from 2011-16 (31st). 

Where the region didn't fare well, however, was in job growth over the past 12 months. The report ranks San Antonio a dismal 125th out of 200.

Elsewhere in Texas
Cities across the Lone Star State popped up throughout this year's list, ranging from Austin and Dallas' high highs to Beaumont-Port Arthur's low lows.

  • College Station-Bryan, No. 22
  • Waco, No. 61
  • McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, No. 68
  • Fort Worth-Arlington, No. 70
  • Lubbock, No. 86
  • El Paso, 113
  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, No. 119
  • Laredo, No. 136
  • Killeen-Temple, No. 159
  • Brownsville-Harlingen, No. 167
  • Corpus Christi, No. 188
  • Beaumont-Port Arthur, No. 191

Rounding out America's top five best performing cities were Provo-Orem, Utah (No. 1); San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California (No. 2); and San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco (No. 4).