15 Fastest-Growing Metro and Micropolitan Areas (4/20 to 4/21)

Posted by Tom Kessler on Aug 30, 2021 7:00:00 AM

Williston, ND, is #1 on the list of fast-growing micropolitan areas in the U.S. (2021)There’s no question that the year 2020 threw us all for a loop, but 2021 has certainly been tumultuous too. As it relates to population, the data is clear: people are moving around, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’re new to this data series on population growth, let’s catch you up: we’re studying the markets in the U.S. that are growing and shrinking. Many SiteSeer clients look to us for advice and tools on where they should open their next location. And while it isn’t the only factor to consider, population growth is certainly an important one.

Here’s a rundown of our population study blogs in case you’d like to compare:

You’ll notice that in January of this year (2021), we chose to compare October 2019 to October 2020, rather than compare the growth over two years. As we all know, the world changed pretty significantly in 2020 and we wanted to see what things looked like from the year prior.

We’re planning to do the same with this data study and compare April 2020 (the onset of COVID-19) to April 2021 (when vaccines started rolling out in the United States). We’ll get to that in a moment, but first: a definition.

What is a metropolitan vs. a micropolitan area?

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. (Keep in mind that these are Census 2010 definitions, and our next iteration of this study will use the updated 2020 Census definitions that will be released later this year.)

Top 15 fast-growing metropolitan areas (4/2020 vs. 4/2021)

Let’s start with the data and then make a few observations. Here’s a look at the 15 fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the U.S. between April 2020 and April 2021:

#15: Burlington, North Carolina – 2.66% (new to the top 15 since last time)

#14 (tie): Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada (new to the top 15 since last time) and Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Florida (#11 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 2.67%

#13: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (#9 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 2.80%

#12: North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida (new to the top 15 since last time) – 2.84%

#11: Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona (new to the top 15 since last time) – 2.88%

#10: Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida (new to the top 15 since last time) – 2.98%

#9: Raleigh, North Carolina (new to the top 15 since last time) – 2.99%

#8: Provo-Orem, Utah (#12 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 3.21%

#7: Punta Gorda, Florida (new to the top 15 since last time) – 3.26%

#6: Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, Alabama (#11 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 3.34%

#5: Boise, Idaho (#2 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 3.46%

#4: The Villages, Florida (#8 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 3.62%

#3: Greeley, Colorado (#3 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 3.92%

#2: Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina/North Carolina (#1 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 4.17%

#1: St. George, Utah (#7 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 4.20%

Metro Area Growth - Observations

  • Only three metropolitan areas in the top 15 of fastest growing metros exceeded one million residents: Raleigh, NC (1,443,588), Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ (5,136,584) and Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV (2,338,323). So, the metro areas growing the most by percentage are not the huge metropolitan areas. St. George, UT (189,864) Myrtle Beach, SC (525,770), and Greeley, CO (342,523) were the top three spots on the list.
  • Are people fleeing the nation’s large cities as you seem to hear on the news? Not exactly. The New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY, NJ, PA metro area actually grew slightly, 0.3% over the year. That’s 68,447 people, which is no small number…but in a market with over 20 million residents, not earth-shattering. Same thing with the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA metro: a 0.1% increase (13,850 residents in this market with over 13 million). Bottom line: after seeing year-over-year population losses prior to and during COVID, this data suggests that perhaps people are returning to highly populated urban areas.
  • We’re not delving into metropolitan areas that are losing people in this study, but a quick glance at the list shows that the majority of markets with a decrease in population are not large. In fact, the largest on the list is the Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA metro area, which lost 0.3% of its population (dropping to 845,717).

Top 15 fast-growing micropolitan areas

Now for the 15 fastest-growing micropolitan areas in the U.S. between April 2020 and April 2021:

#15: Durant, Oklahoma (#10 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 2.49%

#14 (tie): Lewisburg, Tennessee (new to the top 15 since last time), and St. Mary’s, Georgia (also new to the list) – 2.59%

#13: Bennington, Vermont (new to the top 15 since last time) – 2.66%

#12: Hobbs, New Mexico (new to the top 15 since last time) – 2.71%

#11: Dickinson, North Dakota (#10 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 2.75%

#10: Prineville, Oregon (#8 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 2.78%

#9: Sandpoint, Idaho (#5 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 2.91%

#8: Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (new to the top 15 since last time) – 2.92%

#7: Spirit Lake, Iowa (new to the top 15 since last time) – 3.28%

#6: Bozeman, Montana (#7 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list)– 3.29%

#5: Heber, Utah (#6 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 3.34%

#3: Jackson, Wyoming/Idaho (new to the top 15 since last time) – 4.69%

#2: Jefferson, Georgia (#2 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 4.94%

#1: Williston, North Dakota ((#1 on our 10/2019 to 10/2020 list) – 6.89%

Micro Area Growth - Observations

  • There are several new micro areas to the list, and several have dropped off (some were tied on the 10/2019 to 10/2020 list). These areas disappeared from the top 15 between our last study and this one: Rexburg, ID; Summit, UT; Shelbyville, TN; Pinehurst-Southern Pines, NC; Gillette, WY; Crossville, TN; Pahrump, NV; Kalispell, MT; Arcadia, FL; and Cedar City, UT.
  • The top two spots are the same as the top two on our last list: Williston, ND, and Jefferson, GA. Williston is an oil market and beat out the others on this top 15 list by almost 2%! Jefferson is about an hour from Atlanta, a metropolitan area that grew 2.0% this same period, so perhaps people working in Atlanta are choosing to live outside the big city (the “exurb” effect, in which outer suburbs have attracted people who are doing remote work and searching for more affordable, spacious homes outside the cities). The North Dakota oil market clearly remains strong, with Dickinson, ND, on the top 15 list as well.
  • Jackson, Wyoming/Idaho, came in at #3 and wasn’t even in the top 15 in our 10/2019-10/2020 list. What does this mean? It’s speculation, but there has been talk all year of the pandemic bringing remote workers to places like Utah and Wyoming (see this U.S. News article), where people can enjoy lower cost of living, greater outdoor opportunities and a slower pace. (This BBC article on “Zoom towns” attracting remote workers to rural locations is worth a read.)

What does the rest of 2021 hold?

There are several new names on the list and a few recurring themes we noted in our last population study as well. It remains to be seen whether some of these population shifts will be permanent. Will remote workers return to the cities where their companies are based? Or are large companies becoming more comfortable with the idea of maintaining a higher percentage of remote workforce? We’ll update this study later this year and compare October 2021 to October 2020 to see how things are looking.

This has been a sneak peek at the new population data from STI: PopStats. For SiteSeer users that subscribe to PopStats, this data is now available in the platform. If you’re not a SiteSeer subscriber but want to learn more about how the platform can help you make critical decisions about markets, site selection and more, contact us or take a demo! 

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