Top Boomtowns in America – 2021 Edition

The picture is a view of a street in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. SmartAsset analyzed data from various sources to identify and rank the top boomtowns in the US

The US recently reached a major milestone in recovering from the economic fallout from COVID-19. In the second quarter of 2021, real gross domestic product (GDP) exceeded pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This rebound comes exactly one year after real GDP bottomed out during the COVID-19 crisis when it fell more than 12%. At the local level, signs of national growth can be seen. While some cities are still struggling with high unemployment rates and subdued economic growth, many are growing again.

In this study, SmartAsset identified the fastest growing cities in the United States. To identify the top boomtowns in America in 2021, we looked at the latest available data for 500 of the largest cities based on the following seven metrics: population change, unemployment rate, change in unemployment rate, GDP growth, business growth, housing growth and the change in household income. For more information on our data or how our results are compiled, see the Data and Methodology section below.

This is the 2021 edition of our study on the top boomtowns in the United States. Read the 2019 version of the study here.

Most important findings

  • There are many up-and-coming cities in the northwest. According to our ranking, six of the top 10 boomtowns in America are in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. These include Nampa and Meridian in Idaho; Bend, Oregon, along with Vancouver, Bellingham, and Seattle in Washington. From 2014 to 2019, the total number of businesses and residential units in all six cities increased by more than 8% and 10%, respectively. In addition, the unemployment rate was below 5% in all but one (Bellingham, Washington) cities in August 2021.

  • Almost half of the cities are back to full employment. Many economists consider an unemployment rate of 4 to 5% for full employment or a stable inflation rate. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from August 2021, the unemployment rate in 241 of the 500 cities examined in our study does not exceed 5.0%. In addition, the unemployment rate in 111 cities is 4.0% or less in August 2021.

The image is a card from SmartAsset entitled "Top 10 boomtowns in America."

The image is a map from SmartAsset titled “Top 10 Boomtowns in America”.

1. Murfreesboro, TN

The story goes on

Murfreesboro, Tennessee – our highest-ranking boomtown – ranks in the top 20% of cities on six of the seven metrics we considered. It ranks eighth in its five-year change in population (19.62%) and 18th in its five-year change in the number of residential units (21.15%). Murfreesboro also has the 53rd-lowest unemployment rate in August 2021 (3.4%), the 97th-highest average annual GDP growth rate (3.71%), the 35th-highest 5-year corporate growth rate (15.95 %) and the 66th highest 5-year change in household income (38.25%).

2. Nampa, ID

Business is booming in Nampa, Idaho. The data from the Census Bureau shows that the total number of holdings in Nampa increased by nearly 29% between 2014 and 2019, the highest rate in our top 10 boomtowns and the second highest overall. Nampa also ranks in the top 5% of cities in two other metrics: population change over five years and average annual GDP growth. From 2015 to 2020 the population grew by 15.20% and the average annual growth of total production for the three year period 2016 to 2019 is 6.27%.

3. Meridian, ID (tie)

Just about 10 miles east of Nampa, Meridian, Idaho connects Conroe, Texas, the number 3 boomtown in America. From 2015 to 2020, the population of Meridian, Idaho grew by more than 31% – a top 3 rate in our study. Meridian ranks ninth in both the unemployment rate in August 2021 (2.5%) and the five-year change in the number of residential units (27.52%).

3. Conroe, TX (tie)

Out of all 500 cities in our study, Conroe, Texas ranks fifth highest for five-year population change (26.03%) and fourth-highest for five-year housing growth (39.69%). Additionally, Conroe is part of Montgomery County, which has seen an annualized GDP growth rate of nearly 9% over the past three years – a number that places it in the top 1% of cities.

5. Mount Pleasant, SC

Of the top 10 cities in our study, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina is where household incomes are growing fastest. From 2014 to 2019, the average household income grew by more than 47% – a rate that is around 25 percentage points above the national average and ranks 16th in all 500 cities examined. Mount Pleasant’s total population also grew 13.53% from 2015 to 2020, the 19th-largest in our study.

6. Bending, OR

Bend, Oregon ranks in the top 40 cities on four metrics. It has the 10th largest population change in five years (18.00%) and the 31st largest average annual GDP growth rate (5.35%). In addition, commercial and residential construction are booming in the region. In relation to the total of 500 cities in our study, Bend has the 17th-highest 5-year change in the number of businesses (22.51%) and the 20-highest 5-year change in the number of residential units (24, 07%).

7. Tempe, AZ

East of Phoenix, Arizonas Tempe was ranked 7th city in our study. Among the seven metrics considered, it ranks in the top fifth of the cities for five. It has the 28th highest population change in five years (11.88%), the 86th highest average annual GDP growth (3.77%) and the 81st largest change in the number of holdings in five years (11.96%) ). In addition, the number of residential units increased by 17.34% from 2014 to 2019, the 29th place overall. Over the same period, the median household income rose 40.70%, the 50th best in our study.

8. Vancouver, WA

Vancouver, Washington is about 10 miles north of Portland, Oregon (which ranks 44th in our study). This smaller nearby town ranks well for its growing number of businesses and housing options. The data from the Census Bureau show that the total number of establishments and residential units increased by 16.36% and 11.80% respectively from 2014 to 2019. In addition, Clark County’s GDP grew at an annual rate of 6.06%, more than two percentage points higher than the average annual GDP growth rate of Multnomah County, of which Portland is primarily a part.

9. Bellingham, Washington

Bellingham is the second of three Washington cities to make our top 10. Bellingham does particularly well on two metrics: five-year population change and average annual GDP growth. From 2015 to 2020, the population of Bellingham grew 9.95%, ranking 46th in our study. In addition, the average annual growth in total production grew more than 8% from 2016 to 2019 – a top 10 rate.

10. Seattle, Washington

Seattle in Washington rounds off our list of the top 10 boomtowns in America. Seattle ranks in the top 10% of cities on four metrics. It has the 29th highest population change in five years (11.84%) and the eighth highest average annual GDP growth rate (approx. 7%). In addition, the number of residential units increased by 14.64% from 2014 to 2019 and the median household income increased by 44.40%.

Image is a table from SmartAsset entitled "The best boomtowns in America."

The picture is a table from SmartAsset entitled “Top Boomtowns in America”.

Data and methodology

To find the top boomtowns in the US, we analyzed data from 500 of the largest cities. We looked at the latest available data for each of the seven metrics listed below:

  • Five year population change. This is the change from 2015 to 2020. The data comes from the Census Bureau and is at the city level.

  • Average annual GDP growth. This is the average annual growth in total production for the three-year period from 2016 to 2019. The data comes from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and is at the county level.

  • Five year establishment growth. This is the percentage change in the number of establishments from 2014 to 2019. The data comes from the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns Survey and is at the county level.

  • Five year housing growth. This is the percentage change in the number of residential units from 2014 to 2019. The data comes from the 2014 and 2019 Census Bureau’s 1-year survey of the American Community at the city level.

  • Unemployment rate August 2021. The data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and are available at the district level.

  • Change in the unemployment rate by one year. This is the difference in the unemployment rate from August 2020 to August 2021. The data come from the BLS and are at the district level.

  • Five-year change in household income. This is the percent change in median household income from 2014 to 2019. The data comes from the Census Bureau’s 1-year 2014 and 2019 city-level survey of the American Community.

We ranked each city first on each metric. We then calculated the average ranking for each city and assigned a single weight to all metrics except for the August 2021 unemployment rate and the year-long change in the unemployment rate, both of which were half weighted. We used the average rankings to create our bottom line. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the worst average ranking received a score of 0.

Tips on buying your home

  • Know your financial limits. The housing market has become increasingly competitive over the past year, with buyers occasionally offering more than asking prices. Although the market is competitive, it is important to know what you can and cannot afford. If you’re not sure how much that amount is in your budget, take a look at SmartAssets How Much Home Can I Afford? Calculator. Based on your income, location, and a few other factors, we calculate the maximum home value you can comfortably afford.

  • Consider a financial advisor. Buying a home is a big decision and it can be a good idea to consult a financial advisor to better understand your financial situation and what type of home you can afford. SmartAsset’s free tool will match you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can survey your adviser matches for free to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find a counselor to help you meet your financial goals, get started now.

Questions about our study? contact us under [email protected].

Photo credit: © iStock.com / DenisTangneyJr

Top Boomtowns in America – 2021 Edition first appeared on the SmartAsset Blog.

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