In a new report released Wednesday, City Observatory found that Downtown employment centers of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas are recording faster job growth than areas located further from the city center.
In Milwaukee, the number of jobs located in the city core grew 1.4 percent while jobs in outlying areas dropped by 1.3 percent.
More city-specific data can be found here.
The report, titled "Surging City Center Job Growth," tracks an emerging trend of "center-led" job growth that represents the reversal of more than 50 years of job decentralization in American metropolitan areas. As recently as 2002-07, peripheral areas were growing much faster (1.2 percent annually) and aggregate job growth was stagnant in urban cores (0.1 percent).
In the period 2007 through 2011 – from the beginning of the Great Recession through the first two years of recovery – city centers outperformed the remainder of the metropolitan areas in which they were located. Employment growth in the core averaged 0.5 percent per year between 2007 and 2011, while employment in the periphery, including suburbs, declined by about 0.1 percent per year.
"People are moving back to the centers of American cities like Milwaukee, and jobs are coming with them," said Joe Cortright, economist and founding director of City Observatory. "Our analysis revealed tangible evidence that the 50-year tide of employment decentralization, which had been flowing outwards from city centers, has ebbed, and may now be reversing."
While the shift of metropolitan job growth toward services is aiding job centralization, the strong central growth of 2007-11 appears to be driven by the growing competitiveness of central cities relative to peripheral locations. A rising preference for urban living, growth of knowledge-based industries, and changes in transportation investment are likely contributing to the trend. The City Observatory analysis shows that city centers had unusually strong job growth relative to peripheral locations in the wake of the Great Recession.
Many companies have announced that they are moving to or expanding operations in city centers to take advantage of the growing number of talented young workers who are now choosing to live in close-in urban neighborhoods.