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Southern Metros Dominate List of Biggest Boomtowns Through COVID-19

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.

From a boom in new business applications to rising (then falling) unemployment rates, the COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented business trends. With life returning more to normal, we looked at which metros boomed the most between 2019 and 2021 — and which didn’t.

We ranked and scored the 100 largest metros across eight unique metrics grouped into three categories: people and housing, work and earnings, and business and economy. Then, stick around for tips on starting a business in a boomtown.

On this page

Key findings

  • Southern metros dominate the list of the biggest boomtowns. Metros in Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia occupy eight of the top 10 spots in the LendingTree boomtown rankings.
  • Among the 100 largest metros, Austin, Texas, has boomed the most during the pandemic. The number of housing units here jumped 12.9% between 2019 and 2021 — the second-highest among the 100 metros — and the population jumped by 5.6% in the same period — the third-highest — giving the central Texas metro the highest people and housing score.
  • We head west for the second-biggest boomtown: Provo, Utah. The north-central Utah metro outpaced Austin in our work and earnings category, led by its No. 1 growth in workforce size (8.4%). In other categories, Provo had the greatest population growth between 2019 and 2021 (7.2%) and the second-biggest jump in gross domestic product (13.2%) in the same period.
  • We head back South for our next-biggest boomtown: Lakeland, Fla. Lakeland had top-five finishes in individual metrics in all three categories: housing growth (7.7%), median earnings (16.3%) and new employer identification numbers (118.4%).
  • The most sluggish metro — despite being known for its wonderful beaches — is Honolulu. The Hawaii metro finished last in our work and earnings and business and economy categories with the biggest jump in the unemployment rate (119%), the third-smallest jump in median earnings (1.7%) and the third-biggest decrease in annual GDP (5.3%) between 2019 and 2021. Joining Honolulu at the bottom are Hartford, Conn., and Los Angeles.

Many of the biggest boomtowns are in the South

For the biggest boomtowns in the U.S., look to the South. Of the top 10, eight are in Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.

1Austin, TX
2Provo, UT
3Lakeland, FL
4Boise, ID
5Jacksonville, FL
6North Port, FL
7Durham, NC
8Raleigh, NC
9Charlotte, NC
10Virginia Beach, VA

Source: LendingTree analysis of various sources.

But why the South?

“People — especially work-from-home employees — are leaving for warm weather and lower taxes,” LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz says. “Especially for Florida and Texas, those two factors have been instrumental in driving a lot of the growth.”

Of course, diving into the top-ranking boomtowns — and identifying specific reasons for their growth between 2019 and 2021 — can paint a clearer picture (more on that below).

Austin, Texas, is the biggest boomtown

Which metros boomed the most during the pandemic? Among the 100 largest, Austin, Texas, topped the list. In particular, Austin dominated our people and housing category. Broken down, the metro ranked second for its jump in the number of housing units between 2019 and 2021 (12.9%) and third for its population growth in the same period (5.6%).

RankMetroTotal population change% of population who moved from another county, state or countryChange in housing unitsCategory score
1Austin, TX5.6%17.8%12.9%100.0
2Provo, UT7.2%15.9%7.6%85.7
3Boise City, ID7.0%14.7%6.6%78.3
4Lakeland, FL4.0%15.2%7.7%69.4
5Nashville, TN4.1%16.1%6.6%69.3

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data, measuring changes between 2019 and 2021.

Austin also performed well in our work and earnings category. Median wages in Austin grew by 14.4% between 2019 and 2021, while the active workforce grew by 5.5% in the same period. Perhaps most dramatically, looking at our business and economy category, the metro’s gross domestic product (GDP) — the total value of the goods produced and services provided in the metro — in 2021 was 13.0% higher than in 2019.

RankMetroAnnual GDP in 2019Annual GDP in 2021Difference% change
1San Jose, CA$324,594,517$384,702,320$60,107,80318.5%
2Provo, UT$27,512,658$31,135,789$3,623,13113.2%
3Austin, TX$146,516,364$165,604,422$19,088,05813.0%
4Boise, ID$32,869,996$36,295,460$3,425,46410.4%
5Seattle, WA$375,997,193$413,816,976$37,819,78310.1%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

Schulz attributes Austin’s growth to several factors.

“It’s about warm weather, no state income tax, a vibrant arts and music scene, great food, beautiful scenery, amazing outdoor activities and more,” he says. “But, ultimately, Austin’s growth has been about jobs. The economy has been a runaway freight train for many years, with seemingly every major tech company you can think of, as well as those in many other industries, choosing to establish a presence here. It also helps that Austin is still cheaper to buy a home than the big tech hubs out west or in the Northeast.”

Texas in general drew many new residents during the pandemic, and Austin was a hot spot for Silicon Valley tech companies moving out of the Bay Area due to its lower taxes. Not only did these companies bring new jobs to the area, but relocating remote workers also flocked to Austin due to its lower cost of living compared to other major metros.

Provo, Utah, and Lakeland, Fla., also boomed

Following Austin, Provo, Utah, is the second-largest boomtown in the U.S. Looking at individual metrics across categories, this metro had the biggest population growth (7.2%) and workforce change (8.4%) between 2019 and 2021. It also fell in the top five for increased housing units (7.6%) and GDP growth (13.2%).

RankMetroNumber of people in the workforce in 2019Number of people in the workforce in 2021Difference% change
1Provo, UT327,547354,93127,3848.4%
2North Port, FL366,030389,78323,7536.5%
3Boise, ID383,225406,32123,0966.0%
4Fort Myers, FL337,550356,84319,2935.7%
5Palm Bay, FL276,869292,46915,6005.6%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data.

One reason Provo was so resilient was Utah’s proactiveness in the face of the pandemic. In fact, Utah was among the first states to release a comprehensive economic recovery plan, which has been linked to Utah’s ability to outperform other states’ economies throughout 2020.

Utah’s growth throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is also attributed to its income equality — which helps promote spending and can lead to a more educated and skilled workforce. Provo ranks among the metros with the smallest income gaps, according to an earlier MagnifyMoney study. As of 2020, the median household in Provo earned $76,864, while the top 5% earned $388,322 — this is the third-smallest gap among the largest 100 metros.

Lakeland, Fla., squeaked into third place on our list of boomtowns. While Lakeland appeared on the same number of top-five lists as fourth-place Boise, Idaho, it performed very well across most metrics. The metro fell within the top five for its housing growth, booming by 7.7%. Entrepreneurs applied for 27,607 employer identification numbers (EINs) between 2020 and 2021, which is 118.4% more than between 2018 and 2019. New local businesses included:

  • A plant nursery
  • Beauty services
  • A kombucha brewery
  • An indoor cycling center
  • Many bars and eateries

This boom resulted in a 16.3% increase in median earnings between 2019 and 2021.

Which metros have seen the smallest boomtown growth?

On the other end of the list, Honolulu was the most sluggish metro during the pandemic. The infamous Hawaii metro saw its unemployment rate more than double between December 2019 and December 2021, while its GDP shrunk by 5.3%. Meanwhile, median wages rose by a mere 1.7% during the same period — representing the third-smallest gain on our list.

Given that Honolulu is a tourist mecca, it may be unsurprising that it struggled throughout the pandemic. According to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism Visitor Statistics, an average of almost 14,700 domestic passengers flew into Oahu — the island that’s home to Honolulu — daily in July 2019, the state’s busiest month. That number dropped to 1,600 the following year, though it dipped to an average of 280 daily passengers at its lowest in April 2020.

Even after travel began picking up again, Hawaii had strict entry rules, including a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure or a 10-day quarantine upon arrival. These requirements may have deterred many would-be tourists.

1Honolulu, HI
2Hartford, CT
3Los Angeles, CA
4Bridgeport, CT
5Oxnard, CA
6Las Vegas, NV
7San Diego, CA
8San Francisco, CA
9New Orleans, LA
10New York, NY

Source: LendingTree analysis of various sources.

Hartford, Conn., ranked second. Although the metro didn’t hit the bottom five for any of our metrics, it showed lackluster growth across all the metrics. Its population grew by just 0.6% between 2019 and 2021. Meanwhile, unemployment rose by 36.4% and its annual GDP fell by 2.2% in the same period.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles ranked third among the most sluggish metros. The California metro lost more than 200,000 residents between 2019 and 2021, and only 6.1% of its 2021 population moved there from elsewhere — the second-lowest rate on our list. Among the potential reasons for Los Angeles’ declining population, rising home prices and an increase in work-from-home options are likely to blame.

Full rankings

RankMetroTotal population change% of population who moved from another county, state or countryChange in housing unitsCategory score
1Austin, TX5.6%17.8%12.9%100.0
2Provo, UT7.2%15.9%7.6%85.7
3Boise, ID7.0%14.7%6.6%78.3
4Lakeland, FL4.0%15.2%7.7%69.4
5Nashville, TN4.1%16.1%6.6%69.3
6Colorado Springs, CO2.3%20.1%5.5%68.9
7San Antonio, TX2.0%11.9%13.3%68.7
8Jacksonville, FL5.0%14.9%5.9%67.9
9Virginia Beach, VA2.3%20.3%3.5%63.9
10Raleigh, NC4.1%14.6%5.8%62.9
11Charleston, SC1.4%16.8%7.0%60.4
12Orlando, FL3.2%17.0%3.7%59.1
13Richmond, VA2.1%17.3%4.8%58.2
14North Port, FL2.7%15.7%5.1%57.6
15Durham, NC1.5%19.4%3.4%57.1
16Deltona, FL2.5%14.8%5.4%55.1
17Denver, CO0.2%20.0%4.0%54.9
18Oklahoma City, OK2.3%14.6%5.6%54.4
19Ogden, UT3.7%13.5%4.6%54.3
20Washington, DC1.2%15.7%5.2%51.1
20Charlotte, NC2.4%13.9%5.1%51.1
22Madison, WI2.8%13.7%4.8%51.0
23Atlanta, GA2.1%15.8%3.7%50.6
24Spokane, WA4.4%13.8%2.1%50.5
25El Paso, TX3.3%10.4%6.5%49.5
26Greenville, SC2.2%14.4%4.4%49.2
27Dallas, TX2.5%13.3%4.9%49.1
28Salt Lake City, UT2.5%11.1%6.9%49.0
29Cape Coral, FL2.3%13.4%5.0%48.6
30Des Moines, IA2.8%13.3%3.8%47.5
31Columbia, SC-0.3%19.0%2.5%45.3
32Harrisburg, PA3.2%14.7%1.1%44.6
33Honolulu, HI2.7%11.1%5.0%44.4
34Indianapolis, IN2.5%13.0%3.4%44.2
35Palm Bay, FL2.4%12.3%4.0%43.6
36Minneapolis, MN1.4%13.9%4.1%43.4
37Kansas City, MO2.1%13.9%2.6%41.9
38Columbus, OH1.4%12.8%4.3%40.9
39Omaha, NE2.4%12.3%3.2%40.5
40Houston, TX2.0%10.8%5.0%40.3
41Knoxville, TN2.7%13.0%1.8%39.9
42Sacramento, CA2.0%12.9%2.7%39.3
43Albany, NY2.1%13.6%1.8%39.0
44Providence, RI3.2%10.4%3.1%38.6
45Worcester, MA3.3%9.0%4.1%38.1
46Allentown, PA2.5%12.0%2.3%37.9
47Portland, OR0.7%14.2%2.9%37.6
48Tampa, FL0.8%14.0%2.7%36.7
48Stockton, CA3.6%9.6%2.6%36.7
50Tulsa, OK2.6%12.6%1.3%36.6
50Augusta, GA0.9%14.6%1.8%36.6
52Philadelphia, PA2.1%10.6%3.8%36.5
53Boston, MA0.6%13.2%3.2%35.1
53Seattle, WA0.8%14.0%2.1%35.1
55Cincinnati, OH1.9%12.8%1.5%34.6
56Baltimore, MD1.4%12.5%2.3%34.0
57Grand Rapids, MI1.3%12.0%2.5%33.0
58New York, NY2.9%8.9%2.9%32.6
59Baton Rouge, LA2.0%11.0%1.9%31.4
60Tucson, AZ0.5%13.1%1.8%30.2
61Little Rock, AR0.7%11.5%2.7%29.5
62Louisville, KY1.5%9.9%2.4%27.5
63Dayton, OH0.7%13.5%0.0%27.1
64Birmingham, AL2.2%10.4%0.7%27.0
65Rochester, NY1.4%10.5%1.6%26.6
66Greensboro, NC0.9%12.4%0.6%26.5
67Bridgeport, CT1.7%9.7%1.4%25.3
68Phoenix, AZ0.0%10.8%2.9%25.0
69Buffalo, NY3.0%7.2%1.7%24.7
70Wichita, KS1.2%11.0%0.8%24.6
71Winston-Salem, NC0.8%11.6%0.7%24.2
72Scranton, PA2.5%9.9%-0.4%23.7
73Las Vegas, NV1.1%10.4%1.1%23.6
74McAllen, TX1.3%5.2%5.5%23.4
75Syracuse, NY1.5%10.7%0.1%22.7
76Albuquerque, NM0.7%10.3%1.4%22.5
76Springfield, MA-0.3%11.3%2.0%22.5
78Chattanooga, TN0.2%13.0%-0.5%22.0
79New Orleans, LA-0.7%10.9%2.7%21.6
80Jackson, MS-1.4%12.0%2.5%21.2
81Hartford, CT0.6%10.3%1.1%20.7
82Bakersfield, CA1.9%8.8%0.3%20.2
83Chicago, IL0.6%8.7%2.2%19.7
84New Haven, CT1.0%9.6%0.6%19.3
85Toledo, OH0.4%11.1%0.1%19.2
86Miami, FL-1.2%9.4%3.9%18.9
87St. Louis, MO0.2%11.4%-0.1%18.4
88Pittsburgh, PA1.6%9.2%-0.3%17.7
89Riverside, CA0.1%10.6%0.4%17.2
90Cleveland, OH1.3%8.2%0.6%16.8
91Fresno, CA1.4%6.7%1.6%16.0
92Milwaukee, WI-0.6%9.5%1.8%15.7
93San Francisco, CA-2.3%12.8%1.3%15.5
94Akron, OH-0.5%10.7%0.5%15.4
95Detroit, MI1.1%8.5%-0.5%13.1
96San Jose, CA-1.9%11.4%1.1%12.9
97San Diego, CA-1.6%10.1%0.3%8.3
98Memphis, TN-0.6%9.0%-0.5%6.9
99Oxnard, CA-0.7%7.4%1.1%6.8
100Los Angeles, CA-1.6%6.1%1.3%0.0

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data, measuring changes between 2019 and 2021.

RankMetroChange in workforce sizeChange in unemployment rateChange in median earningsCategory score
1Provo, UT8.4%-36.8%11.7%100.0
2Boise, ID6.0%-33.3%15.3%99.7
3Chattanooga, TN0.6%-12.1%21.1%88.7
4North Port, FL6.5%19.2%15.4%86.2
5Spokane, WA4.6%-25.0%11.6%82.9
6Indianapolis, IN2.6%-55.6%10.1%81.0
7Dayton, OH0.6%-11.1%18.1%80.6
8Austin, TX5.5%20.8%14.4%79.5
9Tucson, AZ1.9%-31.7%12.9%78.7
10Palm Bay, FL5.6%18.5%13.4%78.4
11Salt Lake City, UT2.4%-35.0%11.7%78.3
12Scranton, PA0.9%-14.3%16.1%78.0
13Ogden, UT3.6%-35.0%9.8%77.8
14Stockton, CA4.4%12.3%13.9%76.9
15Knoxville, TN3.9%0.0%13.0%76.3
16Durham, NC0.7%-13.8%15.7%76.1
17Phoenix, AZ0.8%-35.1%12.5%74.8
18Raleigh, NC3.6%-10.3%11.5%74.6
19Lakeland, FL3.6%36.7%16.3%73.2
20Allentown, PA1.8%-13.0%11.9%70.2
20Cape Coral, FL5.7%32.0%11.5%70.2
22Jacksonville, FL3.8%23.1%12.8%69.1
23Buffalo, NY2.7%-29.8%7.7%67.7
24Rochester, NY0.3%-23.3%11.6%67.0
25McAllen, TX-1.1%11.4%17.4%66.5
26Philadelphia, PA1.8%5.0%12.5%66.2
27Worcester, MA4.4%33.3%11.5%64.8
27Madison, WI0.5%-39.1%8.5%64.8
29Charlotte, NC1.8%3.2%11.3%63.9
30Tampa, FL2.2%26.9%13.5%63.8
31Virginia Beach, VA2.5%10.7%10.9%63.3
32Fresno, CA3.2%1.4%8.6%63.0
33Toledo, OH-0.2%-10.0%12.1%62.8
34Columbus, OH-0.6%-15.2%11.6%61.6
34Greensboro, NC3.2%5.7%8.7%61.6
36Cleveland, OH1.4%8.6%10.9%60.1
37Albuquerque, NM-1.7%9.5%15.2%59.5
37El Paso, TX4.5%30.6%8.8%59.5
39Deltona, FL0.1%26.7%14.7%59.5
40Oklahoma City, OK3.7%-42.9%1.3%59.2
41San Antonio, TX1.2%32.1%13.5%59.0
42Albany, NY-0.7%-30.6%8.8%58.7
43Omaha, NE1.2%-40.7%4.7%58.4
44Minneapolis, MN0.7%-16.7%8.3%58.3
45Nashville, TN2.0%12.5%9.6%58.0
46Syracuse, NY-1.0%-31.8%8.8%57.8
47Kansas City, MO1.8%-19.4%6.0%57.6
48Little Rock, AR1.6%-19.4%6.2%57.3
49Winston-Salem, NC0.5%-6.3%9.3%57.0
50Atlanta, GA2.2%-14.8%5.8%56.9
51Cincinnati, OH0.0%-12.5%9.1%56.4
52Tulsa, OK0.4%-40.6%4.6%55.0
53Washington, DC-0.1%26.9%13.0%54.3
54Richmond, VA-0.6%23.1%13.1%54.1
55Detroit, MI0.1%16.2%11.1%53.5
55Akron, OH-3.1%-15.0%11.9%53.5
57Columbia, SC-0.5%-20.8%7.0%52.3
58Colorado Springs, CO1.5%53.6%12.6%51.4
59Louisville, KY0.3%-12.1%6.3%50.8
60Dallas, TX2.4%24.1%7.3%50.3
60Orlando, FL1.6%52.0%11.8%50.3
62Miami, FL-1.7%18.2%12.5%50.2
62Providence, RI3.3%18.8%5.4%50.2
62Memphis, TN-1.3%5.1%10.4%50.2
62Greenville, SC0.0%38.1%12.4%50.2
66Des Moines, IA1.8%3.7%5.7%50.0
67Portland, OR-0.4%21.4%10.7%49.4
67Pittsburgh, PA0.5%-13.0%5.3%49.4
69Sacramento, CA1.1%37.5%10.3%48.9
69Augusta, GA2.5%-6.9%3.1%48.9
71Seattle, WA-0.9%29.6%11.9%48.3
72Milwaukee WI-1.2%-29.0%5.3%47.9
73Baton Rouge, LA-1.1%-28.9%5.1%47.7
74Harrisburg, PA0.2%-15.8%4.6%47.1
75Wichita, KS-0.4%-3.1%6.7%46.6
76St. Louis, MO-0.5%-9.1%6.0%46.2
77Riverside, CA1.5%45.7%9.3%45.6
77Baltimore, MD0.9%31.0%8.5%45.6
79San Jose, CA-3.1%36.4%14.6%45.3
80Bakersfield, CA2.6%6.9%2.9%44.8
81Springfield, MA-6.0%8.3%13.9%41.1
82Houston, TX1.3%33.3%6.2%40.8
83New Haven, CT1.9%32.3%4.3%38.7
84Birmingham, AL1.7%18.2%3.0%38.5
84Grand Rapids, MI-0.5%45.8%9.4%38.5
86Denver, CO1.0%82.6%11.1%37.8
87Bridgeport, CT3.6%40.6%2.2%36.9
88Chicago, IL0.1%34.4%5.8%35.0
89Oxnard, CA-0.6%23.5%5.2%34.4
90San Diego, CA-1.7%50.0%9.8%34.3
91New York, NY1.8%61.8%5.3%32.0
92New Orleans, LA-3.2%0.0%4.9%31.3
93Boston, MA-0.4%47.6%5.9%29.7
94Los Angeles, CA-2.5%55.6%9.5%28.9
95Jackson, MS-4.0%43.8%9.8%28.0
96Hartford, CT-0.9%36.4%3.0%24.0
97Charleston, SC1.1%45.0%0.7%22.9
98San Francisco, CA-4.3%59.1%9.2%20.8
99Las Vegas, NV0.5%71.4%2.3%17.1
100Honolulu, HI0.1%119.0%1.7%0.0

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, measuring changes between 2019 and 2021.

RankMetroChange in annual GDP, 2019 to 2021Number of EINs applied for in 2020/2021 compared to the number granted in 2018/2019Category score
1Memphis, TN3.2%108.4%100.0
2Lakeland, FL8.9%71.7%88.8
3Augusta, GA1.2%93.2%83.0
4Atlanta, GA3.5%75.6%76.4
4Charlotte, NC8.0%58.7%76.4
6Stockton, CA5.6%61.8%71.9
7San Jose, CA18.5%12.7%71.8
8Columbia, SC2.9%71.6%71.5
9Austin, TX13.0%31.9%70.7
10Cleveland, OH2.0%69.7%67.5
11Jacksonville, FL7.5%47.2%66.3
12Tampa, FL7.6%45.6%65.5
12Charleston, SC3.9%59.8%65.5
14Orlando, FL6.3%50.4%65.3
15Jackson, MS2.8%63.5%65.2
16Cape Coral, FL9.1%39.5%65.0
17Durham, NC8.8%40.1%64.9
18Greensboro, NC1.1%68.5%64.0
19Detroit, MI3.3%59.6%63.7
20Columbus, OH6.2%48.1%63.3
21Toledo, OH-0.3%72.2%62.9
22Riverside, CA4.5%53.1%62.4
23Dayton, OH2.5%60.2%62.0
24Dallas, TX5.6%47.7%61.5
25Virginia Beach, VA3.7%54.2%60.9
26Little Rock, AR3.1%56.0%60.6
27Greenville, SC3.5%53.8%60.1
28Phoenix, AZ7.7%37.3%59.7
28Palm Bay, FL7.0%40.0%59.7
30Provo, UT13.2%15.7%58.9
31Nashville, TN9.3%29.5%58.1
32Indianapolis, IN3.2%52.3%57.8
33Raleigh, NC7.2%36.4%57.4
34Birmingham, AL3.4%50.7%57.2
34North Port, FL8.4%31.5%57.2
36Chicago, IL0.6%60.5%56.7
37Miami, FL5.2%42.8%56.6
38Knoxville, TN7.9%31.8%55.8
39Deltona, FL6.6%36.5%55.7
40Akron, OH0.6%58.7%55.2
41Seattle, WA10.1%21.7%54.4
42Philadelphia, PA0.6%56.1%53.4
43Houston, TX-0.5%58.8%52.5
44Richmond, VA2.6%46.9%52.1
45Sacramento, CA3.3%43.5%51.8
46Milwaukee, WI0.3%54.6%51.5
47Fresno, CA-0.1%55.4%50.8
48Chattanooga, TN4.2%38.7%50.5
49San Antonio, TX4.4%37.3%50.0
50Cincinnati, OH3.6%40.2%49.8
51Louisville, KY3.9%38.4%49.7
52San Francisco, CA8.0%22.6%49.4
53McAllen, TX4.7%33.1%47.9
54Colorado Springs, CO6.7%24.6%46.9
55Grand Rapids, MI3.7%35.0%46.3
55Bakersfield, CA-1.0%52.5%46.3
55Ogden, UT7.6%20.1%46.3
58New Haven, CT1.6%42.3%45.9
59Spokane, WA6.3%24.4%45.7
60Winston-Salem, NC-0.3%48.7%45.4
61Boise, ID10.4%7.7%44.9
62San Diego, CA5.2%24.5%42.6
63St. Louis, MO1.1%38.8%41.9
64Buffalo, NY1.7%36.3%41.7
65Albuquerque, NM3.4%29.4%41.3
66Washington, DC2.4%32.1%40.5
67Baltimore, MD-0.2%41.3%39.9
67El Paso, TX2.7%30.2%39.9
69Denver, CO5.7%17.4%38.8
69Kansas City, MO2.4%30.0%38.8
71Salt Lake City, UT8.3%6.3%37.9
72Los Angeles, CA2.1%29.0%37.3
73Las Vegas, NV-1.2%39.8%36.0
74Baton Rouge, LA-8.0%65.5%35.9
75Des Moines, IA7.1%8.1%35.7
76Rochester, NY-0.3%35.9%35.6
77Scranton, PA-1.3%39.5%35.4
78Oxnard, CA1.7%28.0%35.3
79Minneapolis, MN1.6%27.8%35.0
79New Orleans, LA-8.4%65.6%35.0
81Boston, MA4.7%14.6%34.0
81Worcester, MA1.6%26.7%34.0
83Springfield, MA-0.5%33.5%33.4
84Albany, NY3.7%16.7%32.7
85Tucson, AZ3.1%18.6%32.2
85Syracuse, NY1.5%24.6%32.2
87Allentown, PA0.5%28.3%32.1
88Madison, WI3.8%14.9%31.7
89New York, NY0.8%25.4%31.0
90Omaha, NE2.1%20.3%30.8
91Pittsburgh, PA-1.2%32.0%30.2
92Portland, OR3.9%11.5%29.4
93Wichita, KS1.2%21.8%29.3
94Providence, RI2.4%13.5%26.4
95Oklahoma City, OK-3.2%28.3%21.6
96Hartford, CT-2.2%23.2%20.9
97Harrisburg, PA-0.1%10.9%17.3
98Bridgeport, CT-3.9%20.7%14.1
99Tulsa, OK-4.4%21.8%13.5
100Honolulu, HI-5.3%7.3%0.0

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and U.S. Census Bureau Business Formation Statistics data.

RankMetroFinal score
1Austin, TX83.4
2Provo, UT81.5
3Lakeland, FL77.1
4Boise, ID74.3
5Jacksonville, FL67.8
6North Port, FL67.0
7Durham, NC66.0
8Raleigh, NC65.0
9Charlotte, NC63.8
10Virginia Beach, VA62.7
11Nashville, TN61.8
11Stockton, CA61.8
13Atlanta, GA61.3
13Cape Coral, FL61.3
15Indianapolis, IN61.0
16Palm Bay, FL60.6
17Spokane, WA59.7
18Ogden, UT59.5
19San Antonio, TX59.2
20Orlando, FL58.2
21Knoxville, TN57.3
22Deltona, FL56.8
23Dayton, OH56.6
24Columbia, SC56.4
25Augusta, GA56.2
26Colorado Springs, CO55.7
27Columbus, OH55.3
27Tampa, FL55.3
29Salt Lake City, UT55.1
30Richmond, VA54.8
31Chattanooga, TN53.7
32Dallas, TX53.6
33Greenville, SC53.2
33Phoenix, AZ53.2
35Memphis, TN52.4
36Philadelphia, PA52.0
37Greensboro, NC50.7
38Charleston, SC49.6
38El Paso, TX49.6
40Madison, WI49.2
41Little Rock, AR49.1
42Washington, DC48.6
43Toledo, OH48.3
44Cleveland, OH48.1
45Tucson, AZ47.0
46Cincinnati, OH46.9
47Allentown, PA46.7
47Sacramento, CA46.7
49Kansas City, MO46.1
50McAllen, TX45.9
50Seattle, WA45.9
52Scranton, PA45.7
53Minneapolis, MN45.6
53Worcester, MA45.6
55Oklahoma City, OK45.1
56Buffalo, NY44.7
57Houston, TX44.5
58Des Moines, IA44.4
59Denver, CO43.8
60Albany, NY43.5
61Detroit, MI43.4
62Fresno, CA43.3
62San Jose, CA43.3
64Omaha, NE43.2
65Rochester, NY43.1
66Louisville, KY42.7
67Winston-Salem, NC42.2
68Miami, FL41.9
69Riverside, CA41.7
70Akron, OH41.4
71Albuquerque, NM41.1
72Birmingham, AL40.9
73Baltimore, MD39.8
74Grand Rapids, MI39.3
75Portland, OR38.8
76Milwaukee, WI38.4
76Providence, RI38.4
78Baton Rouge, LA38.3
79Jackson, MS38.1
80Syracuse, NY37.6
81Bakersfield, CA37.1
81Chicago, IL37.1
83Harrisburg, PA36.3
84St. Louis, MO35.5
85Tulsa, OK35.0
86New Haven, CT34.6
87Wichita, KS33.5
88Boston, MA32.9
89Pittsburgh, PA32.4
90Springfield, MA32.3
91New York, NY31.9
92New Orleans, LA29.3
93San Francisco, CA28.6
94San Diego, CA28.4
95Las Vegas, NV25.6
96Oxnard, CA25.5
97Bridgeport, CT25.4
98Los Angeles, CA22.1
99Hartford, CT21.9
100Honolulu, HI14.8

Source: LendingTree analysis of various sources.

Looking to start a business in a boomtown? Here’s what experts recommend

Despite the many hardships the pandemic brought, seeing some towns boom may have inspired you to start your own business. For those looking to begin their journey as an entrepreneur, Schulz offers the following advice:

  • Do your homework. “Starting a business is a big gamble, so don’t enter into it lightly,” Schulz says. “Take the time to research the competition, write up a business plan, learn about your target customers and take some other key steps before diving in. While there’s never a guarantee that any small business will last, the odds against you get even steeper if you rush in and fly by the seat of your pants.”
  • Explore your funding options. Options include taking out a small business loan, but newer companies may have a harder time qualifying for these loans. Some other options include opening a business credit card or researching the small business grant programs for which your business may qualify.
  • Take care of yourself. “Entrepreneurship is a grind,” Schulz says. “The hours are long and hard, the work can be exhausting and the outcome is uncertain. As you dive in, make sure not to forsake your mental and physical health. It’s easy to let those things fall to the wayside as you focus instead on the miles-long to-do list you’re facing. However, even 15 to 20 minutes here and there devoted to a brisk walk, meditation, reading or other beneficial things that you enjoy can have a major positive effect on your well-being.”


LendingTree analysts ranked and scored the 100 largest metros across eight unique metrics. The eight metrics were grouped into three categories, which were scored according to their equally weighted component metric scores. These three category scores were then averaged (equal weight) for the final score for each metric.

The categories and component metrics are:

People and housing

  • Percentage of the 2021 population who moved from another county, state or country in the prior two years. Some metros cover multiple counties and states. (U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 2020 and 2021 one-year estimates)
  • Total population growth between 2019 and 2021. (American Community Survey 2019 and 2021 one-year estimates)
  • Change in the number of housing units between 2019 and 2021. (American Community Survey 2019 and 2021 one-year estimates)

Work and earnings

  • Change in the number of people active in the workforce between 2019 and 2021. (American Community Survey 2019 and 2021 one-year estimates)
  • Change in the unemployment rate between December 2019 and December 2021. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics)
  • Change in median earnings between 2019 and 2021. (American Community Survey 2019 and 2021 one-year estimates)

Business and economy

  • Change in the annual GDP between 2019 and 2021. (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)
  • Number of employer identification numbers (EINs) applied for in 2020 and 2021 compared to the number granted in 2018 and 2019. (Business Formation Statistics – Annual County Data, mapped to metros using U.S. Census delineation files)

Each metric was scored according to its distance from the lowest and highest values, with the highest value earning a score of 100 and the lowest a score of zero. These were then averaged at the category level, and that value was also scored according to its distance from the lowest and highest values, with the highest earning a score of 100 and the lowest a score of zero.

These categorical scores were then averaged for the final scores. The highest possible score was 100 and the lowest possible was zero.

This study’s research was led by Kali McFadden