City Centers are Growing Stronger

City centers in major U.S. metropolitan areas have experienced job growth at a rate of 1.97% from 2011-2014, according to City Observatory. That’s up from just 0.49% between 2007-2011, and up from 0.26% from 2002-2007. The growth is encouraging, but these numbers alone do not capture the full story.

City Observatory reported that job growth on the periphery, or outside of city centers, was 2.04% from 2011-2014, 0.10% from 2007-2011, and 1.09% from 2002-2007.

City centers overtook the periphery in terms of job growth during the years following the economic collapse of 2007. From the period 2007-2011, city centers experienced job growth at a rate of 0.49% compared to the periphery’s 0.10%.StillSurgingLatest

City centers are experiencing much stronger job growth during the current economic expansion than during the expansion of 2002-2007. City center job growth was 1.97% during the current economic expansion, up from just 0.26% during the previous one.

This seems to suggest a trend in which city centers are more fully realizing the benefits of economic expansion. City Observatory’s Daniel Hertz, who has written about urban affairs for the Washington Post, CityLab, Next City, and his own blog, explains:

“…While city centers lagged metropolitan peripheries in average annual job growth by 0.83 percentage points from 2002 to 2007, from 2007 to 2014, urban cores have actually grown 0.19 percentage points faster than peripheries. And although peripheries have grown slightly faster since 2011, urban cores remain in a much stronger position than they found themselves in during the previous economic expansion. The persistence of this pattern suggests that the dramatic decline in job sprawl we found from 2007 to 2011 was not simply a temporary result of the recession, but is enduring through the current economic recovery.”

The data also suggests a greater level of stability in the economies of city centers as compared to peripheries. During each period analyzed, city centers have seen marginal increases in job growth, while peripheries saw a more violent swing in job growth before, during, and after the economic recession.

Mr. Hertz noted that it may be several years before analysts can determine whether the changes in the geographic nature of job growth are merely cyclical or long-term structural changes.

While the results are useful in understanding the strength of central cities, and seem to underline the “back-to-the-city” movement suggested over the past several years, we hope to see the researchers dig deeper.

For example, the data upon which this analysis is based is compiled by street address. The recently released Storefront Index could provide a powerful overlay for this research. The combination of both data sets would help refine the results, by complimenting the somewhat coarse job growth numbers with information about the neighborhoods within which that job growth is taking place. A further overlay of an index like Walk Score could further compliment the results.

City Observatory, a website and think-tank based in Portland, Oregon, is devoted to data-driven analysis of cities and the policies that shape them.

The analysis by City Observatory is based on the Census Bureau’s Local Employment and Housing Dynamics program. The program combines administrative data to estimate employment levels by street address. City Observatory defined the city center as areas within three miles of the Central Business District.

Please check out the original article and the more detailed analysis by visiting: City center job growth continues strength; suburbs rebounding from recession | City Observatory. And if you have a moment, let the folks at City Observatory know how whether you enjoyed their analysis.

Did you find this story useful? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. Thank so much for visiting The Small Street Journal.

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