The U.S. economic recovery has been an uneven one. Overall, the recent numbers look great. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced U.S. employers added 288,000 jobs in June. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1%, the lowest it has been since the financial crisis peaked in the fall of 2008. A total of 1.4 million jobs were added in the past six months, which marks the best showing since 2006. The stock market has continued its meteoric rise, with the Dow Jones topping 17,000 for the first time on the news.
But the news is not great everywhere. Unemployment remains stubbornly high in some areas, with a dozen metro areas still mired in double-digit unemployment — dozens more if you include the underemployed. Income growth has been almost nonexistent over the past five years, with more than half of the metropolitan areas in the U.S. showing negative real income growth.
Forbes crunched the numbers on every metro area to figure who has the best and worst business climates. The result is our 16th annual look at the Best Places for Business and Careers.
Raleigh, N.C., ranks first this year, moving up from third in 2013. The North Carolina capital previously ranked first in 2011 and had a three-year run in the top spot from 2007 to 2009. It is the only East Coast city that made the top 10.
Last year’s top-ranked city, Des Moines, drops back to second. The Iowa capital is a financial services hub with major employers including Marsh, Nationwide, Principal Financial and Wells Fargo WFC +0.41%. High tech firms have also been making their way to the heartland to take advantage of Iowa’s low energy costs. Microsoft MSFT -0.91% announced plans in April to invest $1.1 billion in a new data center, which brings the company’s total investment in West Des Moines to nearly $2 billion. Facebook has four data centers in the area.
Best Places – #2 Des Moines, Iowa
Metro population: 594,900
Gross Metro Product: $38 billion
Projected annual GMP growth: 4.0%
Microsoft announced plans in April to invest $1.1 billion in a new data center, which brings the company’s total investment in West Des Moines to nearly $2 billion. Facebook has four data centers in the area.
Des Moines employers and employees can take advantage of business costs 17% below the U.S. average and living costs that are 6% lower than the national average. The city’s $38 billion economy is projected to grow at a robust 4% annual rate over the next three years, according to Moody’s Analytics.