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The Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Chaney Cambon and Danny Dougherty report:
To find the best job markets in America, head to the South.
Nashville, Tenn., topped the list of 2022’s hottest job markets, followed by Austin, Texas, and Jacksonville, Fla. Other cities known for tourism—notably Orlando, Las Vegas and New Orleans—climbed the ranks last year.
Those Sunbelt cities benefited from a continued recovery in travel and a hiring boom at restaurants, hotels and music venues, consistent with the resurgent services sector driving the U.S. economy in recent months. Many remained relatively affordable as high inflation gripped the nation. Meanwhile, some Western job markets that heated up after the pandemic took hold—including Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Denver—cooled last year.
The Wall Street Journal, working with Moody’s Analytics, assessed about 380 metro areas. The rankings determined the strongest labor markets based on five factors: the unemployment rate, labor-force participation rate, changes to employment levels, the size of the labor force and wages in 2022. Larger areas, with more than one million residents, were ranked separately from smaller ones.
Broadly, the U.S. labor market remains robust, with employers consistently adding jobs last year and into the start of 2023. The U.S. unemployment rate ticked up to 3.6% in February from a 53-year low of 3.4% in January. But recession concerns linger due to the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest-rate increases intended to combat high inflation, banking turmoil and corporate layoffs in industries such as technology.
Though the tides could shift, Southern cities have shown particular strength, with many top-ranked markets including Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., holding the ingredients to attracting and retaining workers.
“These are lower-cost areas, they are growing rapidly, there’s an increasingly large critical mass of young, educated people,” said Adam Kamins, economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The affordability is really appealing to families as well.”
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