Don’t Go Big, Go Medium?

Economics Ideas and Issues Workers

            New Orleans      Worker mobility is always of interest in the United States, especially when companies are scrambling during the pandemic and post-pandemic labor shortage that is helping fuel worker organizing across the country.  Are workers really making big moves now to expanding job markets, or are we being fed some kind of boosterism with a little bit of big city antipathy?  I wonder?

The Wall Street Journal says that the hot job markets are in mid-sized cities.  That’s interesting.  The top job markets were led by Austin, Nashville and then Raleigh, North Carolina, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Jacksonville, Florida.  More amazingly of the top five, Raleigh and Salt Lake were the ones that showed the most growth in 2021, relatively speaking.  The others were big winners, but not as big as they had been, even while leading the pack.  Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, took a beating on this scorecard, and I get the feeling the Journal and its writers were getting sort of a kick out of that, probably because they were fashioning their own personal arguments for being allowed to work remotely from some city where they could actually afford to live and buy a house.

The Journal also pointed out something interesting about even smaller job markets.  In US metro areas of less than one-million people, Elkhart, Indiana led because of booming recreational vehicle demand, Provo Utah was 2nd as a tech hotspot, and Fayetteville, Arkansas was third, promoting itself as a remote-work hub with tax and cash-incentive programs for incoming workers.  Understand, they said Fayetteville, home of the university, not Bentonville, home of Walmart.  Really?

Elsewhere, I read that between July 2020 and July 2021, about 260,000 more people moved to Florida than left the state – a net migration higher than any other state, yet only Jacksonville is listed as a big Florida winner on job growth and Miami is on the list.  Every indication is still that Texas, Arizona, and similar states are still growing, not getting smaller.

I wonder when we’re looking at these various cities, large and small, if we’re looking at percentage growth, relative to what has been, rather than absolute growth in real jobs?  I’m not saying growth and mobility to smaller metropolitan areas and job markets isn’t a good thing.  Hey, the more the merrier, let the jobs flow across the country.  On the other hand, I don’t want to wake up someday soon and find out that I’ve been tricked by some kind of Elmer Gantry small town boosterism from local chambers of commerce touting their town.

We need to follow this thing closely and see if it’s a trend, which would be good, or a promotional blip.