Thriving Utah: 3 Utah metros in top tier of performing cities, report says

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Utah is thriving — at least, that is according to a new report analyzing the nation’s best-performing cities by the Milken Institute.

The economic analysis company recently ranked over 400 cities nationwide based on market conditions, economic opportunities, tech impact, community resilience, and income equality. The cities were then split into two categories based on population and ranked in tiers.

When all was said and done, Salt Lake City and the Provo-Orem metro area ranked in the Top 5 of the top tier for large cities while St. George ranked fourth in the top tier for small cities.

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Salt Lake City jumped 15 spots from 2023’s rankings, with researchers scoring Utah’s capital particularly high in wage growth and community resilience.

“As a regional tech hub, Utah’s state capital has benefited from strong wage and high-tech GDP growth since 2017, with much of that growth occurring before and during the 2020 pandemic,” wrote the report’s authors, Maggie Switek, Lawson Mansell, and Brock Smith. “The area was a leader in remote work during the pandemic, and although the share of remote workers fell in 2022, Salt Lake City still outpaces the national average in teleworking share.”

The Provo-Orem metro area ranked just behind Salt Lake City, falling four spots from 2023. Researchers with the Milken Institute attributed to Provo’s reign as one of the nation’s best-performing cities due to its rapidly growing job market. However, as job growth has slowed, so too has Provo’s performance.

“The slowdown in Provo’s labor market performance has extended into mid-2023 as signaled by its relatively low (compared to last year) performance in short-term job growth, which accounts for employment growth from August 2022 to August 2023,” the authors said.

Despite the slowdown, Milken Institute’s report still highlights Provo’s strengths in the face of economic shocks.

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In small cities, St. George dropped one spot but stayed in the Top 10 of best-performing cities for the eighth year in a row.

“The city has experienced strong labor market performance in recent years, ranking second among small cities in five-year job and wage growth,” said researchers. “St. George is a modern-day western boomtown; in 2022, the Census Bureau named it the fastest-growing metro area in the country for the second straight year.”

Researchers said the booming population in St. George is contributing to a thriving construction sector and a rapidly growing tech sector, though it hasn’t come without its challenges. The report indicates that the housing supply in St. George is struggling to keep pace with demands and the city faces an “uncertain water future.”

Other notable Utah metros listed in the report include Ogden-Clearfield and Logan in northern Utah. Both cities ranked within the second tier of best-performing U.S. cities at 26 and 15, respectively.

The full report can be found here, along with an interactive map of the best-performing cities nationwide.

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