NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Much of the country is still waiting for the economic recovery to lift up their local job market, but in San Antonio, Texas, it’s as though the recession never happened.
The combination of greater energy investments, limited regulation on businesses and an increase in government spending on military bases in the area helped San Antonio add enough jobs this year to pass its pre-recession employment levels, making this the best-performing large metropolitan area in the country, according to a new report from the Milken Institute.
To come up with its index, the a non-partisan economic think tank analyzed labor data from the 200 largest metropolitan areas to find the cities that have done the best in terms of job creation, wage/salary increases and business growth.
San Antonio wasn’t the only city in Texas to rank high on the list: Four the top five cities were from the Lone Star state and nine Texas cities placed among the top 25, far more than any other state, while Utah had three cities in the top 25.
To some extent, the success of the Texas labor market is more a matter of good fortune than good planning. As the Institute points out in the report, extra funding for military bases in cities like San Antonio and El Paso has indirectly boosted employment in other sectors like education and health care as more military personnel move into the area and increase the demand for such services. At the same time, oil and gas reserves in these and other Texas cities continue to lure business investment and jobs. Should either of those contributing factors change, Texas may lose its front-runner status as a job-friendly state.
Other cities that ranked high on the list tended to benefit from either government spending or a skilled labor force, or sometimes both. Salt Lake City and Provo-Oren, Utah, both jumped up more than a dozen spots on the list thanks to a growth in high-tech jobs. Washington, D.C., has remained firmly in the top 25 thanks to federal employment opportunities, though its position slipped 11 spots from 2010, presumably because the government has been forced to freeze pay and cut back on hiring.