America’s 20 Fastest Growing Big Cities

The U.S. population rose 2.7% over the past five years, from about 327 million in 2016 to almost 332 million people in 2021. Nearly all of the increase was because of immigration. Americans continue to go West and South, and those regions are where the nation’s fastest-growing cities are. 

To determine the fastest growing large cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed population data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey one-year estimates. We listed all 20 metropolitan statistical areas with at least 15% population growth from 2016 to 2021. We added seasonally-adjusted December employment figures – used to calculate employment growth from 2016 to 2021 – from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Among the reasons why these cities are growing are booming local economies, lower cost of living, desirable places to retire, the vibrancy of the college-town experience, and warmer weather.

Almost half of the fastest growing U.S. metro areas are in the South, which is now home to 40% of the nation’s population. Three metro areas in Tennessee/Kentucky and two in North Carolina are on the list. (Find out if these are also among the cities that will grow the fastest in the next few decades.)

Outside of the South, Idaho and Utah also have rapidly growing metro areas. There are three Idaho big cities on the list – Coeur d’Alene, Boise City, and Pocatello. Idaho is benefiting from an influx of people fleeing high-cost California. 

Utah landed St. George and Provo-Orem on the list. Each metro area boasts an unemployment rate of less than 2%. Both Utah metros had the highest employment growth of any metro region on the list for the 2016-2021 period. 

In all but one of the metro areas on the list – Greeley, Colorado – the unemployment rates fell in the 2016-2021 timeframe. 

Many of the metro areas on the list benefit from the vitality of being home to major universities in their cities, including Ames, Iowa; Gainesville, Florida; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Jackson, Tennessee; and Columbia, Missouri. (Here are cities with the youngest populations.)

Click here to see America’s 20 fastest growing big cities.

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