These U.S. Markets Added the Most Jobs in the Past Five Years

After drastic changes in the U.S. job market over the past few years, employment has gotten back on track and job growth is solid. In fact, a handful of large markets are leaving their troubles in the dust, adding new jobs at a very quick pace.

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the way U.S. workers engaged with the office. Many jobs were lost, especially retail and food service positions, as the country closed in attempt to stop the virus from spreading. Many other jobs became work-from-home positions and employees migrated toward less expensive, less urban locales, to save money as the economy floundered and uncertainty loomed.

But the recovery of 2021-2023 has been drastic. As of November, the U.S. employs 4.7 million more people than it did in February 2020. The makeup of that employment has changed, as about 160,000 Leisure and Hospitality Services jobs never did come back into the fold. Meanwhile, other job sectors thrived, including Professional and Business Services, Education and Health Services and Trade, Transportation and Utilities, which are now 1 million jobs or more ahead of pre-pandemic norms.

The job market has also shifted geographically. In the past five years, the biggest job gains have occurred in the South region. These are markets that benefited from an influx of population when the work-from-home trend started, as employees were drawn to lower costs of living and more affordable rents or home prices. Not surprisingly, a big block of these markets are also forecasted to log sizable apartment demand activity in 2024.

The Dallas/Fort Worth area is the clear winner for job growth in the past five years, with both sides of the metroplex showing up in the list of top 10 job growth markets. Dallas added over 450,000 jobs since November 2018, increasing its existing employment base by 17.1%, while the much smaller Fort Worth added more than 140,000 jobs, resulting in growth of 13.2%. In fact, Dallas recently overtook New York for annual job growth, a rare feat, as the Big Apple tends to continuously reign as the nation’s job growth powerhouse.

Two other Texas markets racked up big job growth in the past five years. Houston added over 263,000 positions, increasing its large existing job base by 8.4%, while Austin saw its employment base increase by more than 245,000 jobs, resulting in an extreme 22.3% increase to its smaller existing employment count. Austin’s employment base has thrived in Professional and Business Services and Information jobs, with a much more affordable cost of living than other big tech markets like San Francisco and New York.

The job base increases seen in Austin and Dallas were some of the strongest nationwide. In fact, these were the only two major markets with employment growth of 14.6% or more. The rest of the top nation’s performers were smaller markets where a percentage job base increase of such magnitude required much smaller volumes of employment additions.

Atlanta has gained nearly 10% of its existing job base just within the past five years, with employment additions of over 273,000 positions. This southern market tends to have a relatively young population and job gains have been pronounced in the Education and Health Services and the Leisure and Hospitality Services sectors.

Like Texas, Florida markets also logged big in-migration during the work-from-home phase of the pandemic. In the past five years, top job growth performers in Florida include Tampa and Orlando. Tampa added more than 174,000 jobs, while Orlando gained nearly 140,000. The job base increases in both of these markets was around 11% to 13%.

Only three markets with top job growth in the past five years are located outside of the South. Phoenix and Riverside are two West region markets with big employment additions. Phoenix added over 240,000 new jobs in the past five years, while Riverside added more than 171,000 jobs. Both markets saw job growth of 11%. Riverside benefited from workers leaving neighboring Los Angeles during the initial COVID wave, in search of more affordable housing.

Philadelphia leads the Northeast region for job gains. This market added over 167,000 jobs in the past five years, growing the local employment base by 5.6%. Philadelphia has likely been gaining jobs from nearby New York, as the largest job base in the country added only 126,900 jobs in the past five years, increasing by 1.7%. Job growth has been getting back to normal in New York more recently, but the five-year number includes the losses the market suffered in the initial COVID shutdown, demonstrating just how hard the market was hit.