The Austin area has retaken the top spot on the Milken Institute's prestigious 2024 Best-Performing Cities list.
Such a listing will undoubtedly draw the eyes of people looking for a new place to live or start a business, and it combats anyone's perception that Austin has passed its prime.
The index from the nonprofit think tank has been published annually since 1999 and ranks cities on a variety of metrics, including job creation, wage growth and output growth. Designed to help the public and private sectors evaluate and compare cities throughout the nation, the list is particularly handy for Realtors, job recruiters and site selectors.
Austin's position this year at the summit of Milken's largest cities category marks a return to a spot it hasn't held since 2013. It ranked in the No. 2 spot in 2023 and 2022, after three years in the No. 3 position.
It climbed to the top of the heap this year largely because of growth in jobs and wages, particularly in the robust local tech industry buoyed by giants such as electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc. Milken described the city as having a "well-balanced assortment" of tech industry positions that make it one of America's best-performing metros.
As a whole, the report described the region as a leader in sustainable and equitable growth amid the post-pandemic U.S. economy, which has continued to expand despite inflation and rising interest rates.
Here are some highlights:
- Austin ranked first in five-year job growth, with its tech sector growing just under 63% between 2017 and 2022.
- Between 2017 and 2022, the metro’s job market grew 23%, with a 73% increase in wages during that period.
- It ranked No. 8 in five-year growth in high-tech gross domestic product and No. 7 in terms of high-tech GDP concentration.
- Austin ranked No. 4 for the diversity of its tech industry.
- The area also showed improvement from past years for its housing-affordability ranking. It came in at No. 120 in that metric this year, compared to No. 143 in 2023.
Austin's tech sector was hit with a series of layoffs in 2023 — as was the U.S. tech sector overall — meaning those job cuts weren't reflected in the data from 2017 to 2022 that Milken used to compile its 2024 rankings. Still, the Austin metro continued to grow last year, and it also has plenty of tech-related projects underway.
That includes chipmaker NXP Semiconductors NV's plan to to invest nearly $300 million in its Austin manufacturing facilities, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.'s $17 billion chipmaking plant under construction in Taylor and Tesla's gigafactory and headquarters that employs 20,000 people now but could swell to 60,000 workers in the future.
The 2024 Milken Institute Ranking of Large U.S. Cities
- Austin-Round Rock
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Boise, Idaho
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Provo-Orem, Utah
- Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee
- Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers, Arkansas/Missouri
- Olympia-Tumwater, Washington
- Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, North Carolina/South Carolina