The Austin skyline ARNOLD WELLS/STAFF

Austin Business Journal shares, "Austin is back in the top 10 on a highly regarded list it once dominated: U.S. News & World Report's analysis of the 150 "best places to live." It was in a bit of a freefall on the list since 2020.

The leap to No. 9 this year from No. 40 in 2023 stems partly from new methodology in how the list is prepared. The ranking this year focused solely on cities, whereas entire metro areas were ranked in previous years — a change that resulted in significant churn throughout the list.

In addition, strength of local job markets weighed more heavily this year than last year. The ranking compares cities on a variety of factors — such as job market, quality of life and value, which includes housing affordability — but they're re-weighted annually based on public input.

"The job market (in Austin) is really what set it up" positively this year, said Erika Giovanetti, a U.S. News & World Report loans expert and reporter who helped prepare the 2024 rankings. The city "has low unemployment and relatively high salaries."

Still, Giovanetti said the change in methodology to focus on cities instead of metro areas resulted in a large amount of movement throughout the rankings this year, "so it's pretty hard to make year-over-year comparisons for any city because of that."

The change was made to provide readers of the list with "a more localized perspective" and to eventually include more cities in the ranking, she said. But the immediate result has been churn, with some cities sliding down the list without their metro areas included and others moving up to take their places.

"I don't know that that was a big concern (in Austin's ranking), but it resulted in a lot of shifts" overall, Giovanetti said.

The Austin metro once ruled the annual U.S. News & World Report ranking, coming in at No. 1 three years in a row from 2017 to 2019. It wasn't knocked out of the top 10 until 2022, coming in at No. 14, before plummeting last year.

A high cost of housing in the Austin area has been largely responsible for the the region's slide down the list in recent years, an issue that continues to plague the region. But Giovanetti said public surveys in advance of the 2024 list indicated the economy was a top concern this year, resulting in increased weight for local job markets compared to last year.

“There is a lot of (economic) uncertainty for people" around the country, she said. "They want to make sure they are moving to a place where they have stable employment.”

Both the city of Austin and the Austin metro have unemployment rates that are considered extremely low by economists. The city's unemployment rate came in at 2.9% in April, unadjusted for seasonal factors, while the metro unemployment rate registered 3%. The new number for Austin doesn't reflect recent layoff announcements — such as the nearly 2,700 workers let go at Tesla Inc.'s Travis County factory in mid-April, the biggest single round of job cuts in the Austin metro in at least four decades — because of a lag between such announcements and when they show up in unemployment figures. But it is the latest evidence of an extremely tight local labor market leading up to the cuts, which is likely to equate to new employment opportunities for at least some of the people who have recently lost jobs in the region because of corporate downsizing.

Still, recent U.S. Census Bureau data pegged Austin's population at 979,882 in 2023 — up 0.5% from the year prior — dropping it from the 10th to the 11th most populous city in the country behind Jacksonville, Florida, which has an estimated population of 985,843.

While Austin was No. 9 on the U.S. News & World Report overall list this year, it topped other Texas cities. McAllen, El Paso, Corpus Christi and Brownsville rounded out the Top 5 in Texas."

Nationally, here are the latest top 10 "best places to live," according to U.S. News & World Report:

  1. Naples, Florida
  2. Boise, Idaho
  3. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  4. Greenville, South Carolina
  5. Charlotte, North Carolina
  6. Raleigh, North Carolina
  7. Huntsville, Alabama
  8. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  9. Austin
  10. Boulder, Colorado

Source: Austin Business Journal

Written by: Bob Sechler 

Published: May 21, 2024

Posted by Grossman & Jones Group on


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