The 15 Fastest-Growing Metropolitan and Micropolitan Areas (10/19 to 10/20)

Posted by Tom Kessler on Jan 22, 2021 1:56:29 PM

Myrtle Beach: the fastest-growing metro area 10/2019 to 10/2020

If there is one question the SiteSeer team has consistently received in the last 10 months, it is some variation of, “What cities are growing/shrinking in the U.S. these days, and where should we locate next as a result?” With new data from STI: PopStats in hand for the time period October 2019 to October 2020, we set out to understand which markets grew the fastest.

First, here is a reminder on what constitutes a metropolitan and micropolitan market:

  • Micropolitan areas are those with a core urban area of at least 10,000 but fewer than 50,000 people, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Metropolitan areas have at least one city with a population of 50,000 or higher.

Large Metro Trends

Many rumors persisted during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. None more prevalent than the idea that people were abandoning large cities, leaving vacant wastelands in their wake. Although it seems to be true that there has been a greater interest in suburban and rural areas in recent months, the data does not suggest an exodus from large metro areas.

What we are seeing is people choosing to leave large northern cities – often referred to as the rustbelt – for southern “sunbelt” cities:

  • Cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Rochester and Hartford all saw declines in the 12-month period studied.
  • Austin, Raleigh, Phoenix, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Nashville, Dallas-Fort Worth and Orlando saw an influx of new residents.
  • In the nation’s largest metro, New York-Newark-Jersey City, an average of 118 people per day left the metro over the 12-month period. A significant amount for sure, but less than 1% of the metro’s 20 million people.
  • The losses were not evenly distributed across the metro, though. The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens combined lost over 50,000 persons – the equivalent of a small metropolitan area. Meanwhile, Manhattan and Staten Island saw little net change in population.
  • We can speculate that perhaps population did indeed vacate the city but many kept their residences. Since population change is measured in primary residences, it is unclear.
  • Several New York metro counties saw population increases, particularly the New Jersey counties of Orange, Union and Ocean.

Mid-size Markets Rule

Although many metros with 1 million or more population saw gains, we continue to see the most growth in mid-size metros. While the average population for all metros is approximately 740,000, the average of the 25 fastest growing metros is 512,000.

  • Metros like Myrtle Beach, SC (513,140), Boise, ID (781,807) and Greeley, CO (334,757) topped the list.
  • The only metro with over 1 million persons in the top 15 fastest growing metros was Austin, TX (#7).
  • But not all movers are leaving large cities for smaller metros. The average population of metropolitan areas that people are leaving is 232,000.
  • The data suggests that a “goldilocks effect” is happening as people in smaller areas continue to relocate to larger markets for the greater opportunity they provide, while simultaneously large market residents seek slightly smaller markets that are often perceived to have a higher quality of life.

Small Market Life

Despite numerous households leaving small markets for large urban areas, micropolitan areas are as popular as ever. Like metropolitan areas, not all areas of the country are seeing increases in equal numbers.

  • The region of Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming each had multiple top 20 growth cities as did the states of Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, Nevada and North Carolina.
  • Many of these small markets are found near large metro areas or outdoor recreation, perhaps due to increases in work-from-home jobs and decreased city amenities due to COVID-19.
  • After dropping down the list in our previous studies, oil markets appear to be experiencing high growth again. While few markets of any size grew faster than 3-4% over the past year, Williston, North Dakota saw an increase of 6%. Other oil markets such as Gillette, Wyoming and Dickinson, North Dakota also saw tremendous growth along with metros like Midland, Texas.

Top 15 fast-growing metropolitan areas

And now for the data. Here’s a look at the 15 fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the U.S. between October 31, 2019 and October 31, 2020:

#15: Midland, Texas – 2.35% (new to the list)

#14: Charleston-North Charleston, SC – 2.4% (#14 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#13: Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida – 2.4% (#15 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#12: Provo-Orem, Utah – 2.5% (#4 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#11 (tie) Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Florida (new to the list) and Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, Alabama – 2.47% (#11 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#10: Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, South Carolina – 2.49% (#10 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#9: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – 2.78% (#9 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#8: The Villages, Florida – 2.84% (#8 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#7: St. George, Utah – 2.96% (#1 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#6: Austin-Round Rock, Texas – 2.98% (#2 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#5: Bend-Redmond, Oregon – 3.03% (#7 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#4: Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida – 3.04% (#13 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#3: Greeley, Colorado – 3.09% (#6 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#2: Boise, Idaho – 3.15% (#5 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#1: Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina/North Carolina – 3.31% (#3 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)


Top 15 fast-growing micropolitan areas

And here’s the 15 fastest-growing micropolitan areas in the U.S. between October 31, 2019 and October 31, 2020:

#15 (tie): Rexburg, Idaho (#7 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list) and Dickinson, North Dakota (new to the list) – 1.94%

#14: Summit, Utah (new to the list)

#13 (tie): Shelbyville, Tennessee – 2.1% (new to the list) and Pinehurst-Southern Pines, North Carolina – 2.05% (new to the list)

#12: Gillette, Wyoming – 2.08%

#11 (tie): Crossville, Tennessee (new to the list) and Pahrump, Nevada (new to the list) – 2.13%

#10: Durant, Oklahoma – 2.21% (new to the list)

#9: Kalispell, Montana – 2.36% (new to the list)

#8: Prineville, Oregon – 2.4% (#8 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#7: Bozeman, Montana – 2.49% (#9 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#6: Heber, Utah – 3.45% (#4 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#5: Sandpoint, Idaho – 3.55% (#10 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#4: Arcadia, Florida – 3.75% (new to the list)

#3: Cedar City, Utah – 4.07% (#2 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#2: Jefferson, Georgia – 4.26% (#3 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

#1: Williston, North Dakota – 5.99% (#1 in our 6/30/18 to 6/30/20 list)

Looking forward to 2021

The year 2020 was unique in every single way and there’s no doubt that we’re all looking forward to the rest of 2021 with trepidation and hope.

Despite some new names on the list, most of the top markets are unchanged from our last population study. Will the end of COVID or the proliferation of vaccines change people’s choices, including where people choose to live and work? We’ll see.

This has been a sneak peek at the new population data from STI: PopStats. For SiteSeer users that subscribe to PopStats you will have access to the updated data in the coming weeks. For anyone else who is facing critical decisions about which markets are right for your business or family, we welcome the opportunity to discuss PopStats or any of the dozens of accurate and up-to-date data sources available in SiteSeer from our exceptional data partners. Visit to learn more.

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