Job growth is greeted with cheers in pretty much every community—well, most communities outside of Palo Alto. But not all job growth is the same. There’s a big difference between creating high-wage and low-wage jobs, or skilled and low-skilled jobs.
In The Talent Attraction Scorecard, we included 2011-2015 skilled job growth as one of five metrics to determine the top and bottom counties for attracting and developing skilled labor. In the report, we define skilled jobs this way:
Skilled job growth looks at 2011–2015 percentage growth for occupations that fall into one or more of the following three categories: those that typically require 1) a postsecondary certificate or above, 2) long-term on-the-job training, an apprenticeship, or residency/internship, or 3) five years or more of work experience in a related occupation. This allows us to see growth of jobs in both occupations that require formal education (from a certificate to an advanced degree) and those in which experience or on-the-job training is preferred by employers. All education levels are reported at the national level by the BLS.
It’s an important metric, and a few somewhat surprising counties top the list. In this post, we discuss the best regions for skilled job growth—and touch on the counties that are adding to their skilled workforce and showing up strong in net migration.
Which Regions Are Adding to Their Skilled Workforce?
Suburban counties in a few large metro areas showed up strong in our ranking of large counties (100,000-plus population) for skilled job growth. Adams County, Colorado, in suburban Denver and Williamson County, Tennessee, in suburban Nashville topped the list. In both, job growth in skilled occupations approached 30% from 2011 to 2015.
Adams County isn’t the only Denver-area county in the top five. It’s joined by Douglas County, where skilled jobs grew 26%. The Atlanta metro also had two counties in the top eight: Forsyth County (No. 6) and Coweta County (No. 8). And three New York City boroughs—Kings, Queens, and Bronx—are in the top 10.
In Forbes last week, we wrote about Texas’ dominance over other states in attracting and developing skilled talent. But when we isolate skilled job growth, a diverse group of counties from California, Georgia, New York, Utah, and yes, Texas populate the top 50 (see table below).
Meanwhile, Cochise County, Arizona, and Calhoun County, Alabama, rank at the bottom for skilled job growth among large counties. Both saw a 10% decline in skilled jobs. Two Pennsylvania counties (Monroe and Cambria) and two Illinois counties (St. Clair and McClean) were also in the bottom 10.
What’s Working for the Top Counties?
To see what’s driving the growth in skilled occupations among the top counties, we dug into the detailed occupations that make up the skilled workforce group we used for the study and looked at Emsi’s industry data to see the groups of businesses growing the most. Here’s what we found:
Adams County, Colorado
Skilled workforce growth: 18,343 new jobs (81,981 total in 2015), 29% increase
Fastest-growing skilled occupations among those with 500-plus jobs in 2015:
- Postsecondary teachers (192% growth, $37.33 per hour median wages)
- Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers (92% growth, $23.03 per hour)
- Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters (88% growth, $22.69 per hour)
Fastest-growing industries among those with 500-plus jobs in 2015:
- Education and hospitals, state government (139%)
- Support activities for mining (131%)
- Residential building construction (110%)
Takeaway: Adams County’s growth has been spearheaded by state-run schools and hospitals, easily the largest 4-digit NAICS industry sector in the county—followed not too far behind by local government education and hospitals.
Williamson County, Colorado
Skilled workforce growth: 10,153 new jobs (46,259 total in 2015), 28% increase
Fastest-growing skilled occupations among those with 500-plus jobs in 2015
- Registered nurses (106% growth, $31.44 per hour)
- Software developers, applications (74% growth, $43.87 per hour)
- Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products (69% growth, $36.85 per hour)
Fastest-growing industries among those with 500-plus jobs in 2015:
- Software publishers (621% growth)
- Data processing, hosting, and related services (127%)
- Federal government, civilian (87%)
Takeaway: Williamson County, which includes Nashville suburbs like Franklin, is a growing software and tech area. It’s also has a large number of corporate headquarters—another fast-growing industry outside the top three listed above.
Counties Adding Skilled Jobs and New Residents
In our article for Area Development about the talent attraction study, we focused on counties doing well in both skilled jobs growth and net migration. It’s a short list, and it’s headlined by Collin and Montgomery counties in Texas. They are the only two large counties in the U.S. to rank in the top 15 in net migration and grow their skilled workforce by at least 20% from 2011 to 2015.
Collin County is just outside the Dallas city limits, and Montgomery County is north of Houston. They have different economies (Collin is more financial- and tech-driven; Montgomery is oil and gas-based), but they both added more than 4,000 net new residents from 2013 to 2014 while cranking along in adding skilled employment.
Florida is also represented on this list. St. Johns and Lee counties were in the top 35—very strong considering there are 592 counties with at least 100,000 residents—in both skilled job growth and net migration. St. Johns County is part of the Jacksonville MSA and has seen a large jump in jobs for elementary, middle school, and secondary teachers, as well as registered nurses, carpenters and mechanics.
Lee County, which makes up the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area, has experienced big job growth in skilled trades and construction occupations (e.g., carpenters, HVAC installers, electricians) and registered nurses and nursing assistants.
Top 50 Counties for Skilled Job Growth
|County Name||Skilled % Job Change (2011-2015)||Skilled Job Growth Rank||Overall Job % Change (2011-2015)||Job Growth Rank||Net Migration (2013-2014)||Net Migration Rank||Talent Attraction Score||Overall Rank|
|Sources: Emsi 2016.2, IRS|
|Adams County, CO||29%||1||24%||3||1,868||48||10.7||13|
|Williamson County, TN||28%||2||23%||7||1,396||72||9||22|
|Queens County, NY||27%||3||22%||12||-7,615||586||10.42||14|
|Kings County, NY||27%||4||24%||2||-7,990||587||11.08||11|
|Douglas County, CO||26%||5||22%||9||2,008||43||7.98||26|
|Forsyth County, GA||26%||6||24%||4||2,022||42||7.03||29|
|San Francisco County, CA||25%||7||19%||27||469||157||21.08||2|
|Coweta County, GA||25%||8||20%||18||415||168||4.42||69|
|Bronx County, NY||24%||9||22%||11||-4,836||584||5.49||46|
|Midland County, TX||24%||10||23%||8||925||103||7.55||28|
|Collin County, TX||23%||11||21%||15||4,558||9||13.74||7|
|San Mateo County, CA||23%||12||17%||40||-59||299||11.53||10|
|Weld County, CO||23%||13||23%||6||1,694||56||7.02||30|
|Montgomery County, TX||22%||14||22%||13||4,246||12||9.35||19|
|Washington County, UT||22%||15||21%||14||1,049||95||5.37||48|
|Sumter County, FL||22%||16||17%||41||2,661||32||5.02||53|
|Parker County, TX||22%||17||20%||21||815||118||4.36||70|
|Richmond County, NY||22%||18||19%||25||-1,193||526||3.88||84|
|Utah County, UT||21%||19||20%||24||-950||505||5.99||40|
|Deschutes County, OR||21%||20||20%||23||2,062||40||6.05||38|
|Ascension County, LA||20%||21||21%||16||454||163||4.77||60|
|Eaton County, MI||20%||22||31%||1||103||237||5.6||44|
|Fort Bend County, TX||19%||23||24%||5||6,021||4||9.59||18|
|St. Johns County, FL||19%||24||19%||26||2,834||28||5.68||43|
|Denton County, TX||19%||25||21%||17||4,514||10||8.91||23|
|Lexington County, SC||18%||26||18%||30||814||119||5.18||51|
|Hamilton County, IN||18%||27||17%||37||1,339||76||5.81||42|
|Santa Clara County, CA||18%||28||16%||48||-3,981||581||17.27||4|
|Warren County, OH||18%||29||16%||46||510||150||4.29||72|
|Berkeley County, SC||18%||30||20%||19||314||185||3.54||92|
|Cherokee County, GA||17%||31||18%||33||1,402||71||3.89||82|
|Benton County, AR||17%||32||16%||52||641||139||4.84||57|
|Ector County, TX||17%||33||16%||43||949||101||5.05||52|
|Comal County, TX||17%||34||16%||44||1,618||63||4.53||65|
|Lee County, FL||17%||35||20%||20||5,497||5||9.22||20|
|Brazoria County, TX||17%||36||16%||50||1,346||75||4.61||64|
|Placer County, CA||17%||37||16%||49||732||128||4.93||55|
|Sumner County, TN||17%||38||17%||38||886||111||3.7||91|
|Williamson County, TX||17%||39||16%||51||5,063||7||7.61||27|
|Riverside County, CA||17%||40||16%||47||3,729||16||10.93||12|
|Ellis County, TX||16%||41||20%||22||760||125||3.79||86|
|Hays County, TX||16%||42||18%||32||1,717||53||4.52||67|
|DeSoto County, MS||16%||43||17%||42||420||166||3.2||104|
|Livingston County, MI||16%||44||22%||10||367||179||3.91||79|
|Canadian County, OK||16%||45||18%||34||1,064||94||3.48||94|
|Boone County, KY||16%||46||12%||98||-89||307||3.74||89|
|Sarasota County, FL||16%||47||18%||35||3,541||19||6.8||32|
|Imperial County, CA||16%||48||13%||81||-244||361||2.74||114|
|Travis County, TX||16%||49||16%||45||61,826||1||54.63||1|
|Clay County, FL||15%||50||12%||88||822||117||2.63||118|
To download the full Talent Attraction Scorecard report, click here. And to learn about Emsi data and how we help economic developers and private companies, contact Josh Wright (email@example.com). Follow Emsi on Twitter (@DesktopEcon).