Best-Performing Cities 2020: Where America’s Jobs Are Created and Sustained

About Best-Performing Cities

How did US regional economies perform recently? What are the key factors driving their growth and decline? The Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities series has tracked the economic performance of US metros for two decades using job, wage and salary, and high-tech gross domestic product (GDP) indicators. Metros are ranked on their performance, while indicators help identify the drivers behind their success or failure. With this publication, we hope metros will learn from others’ experiences and enhance urban economies in the long run.


See the complete list of rankings for large metros.

See the complete listing for small metros.

Learn more about the methodology.


The 2020 Rankings

Top 10 Best-Performing Large Cities

Metropolitan Statistical Area /
Metropolitan Division
2020 Rank 2018 Rank Change
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA 1 4 3
Provo-Orem, UT 2 1 -1
Austin-Round Rock, TX 3 3 Steady
Reno, NV 4 11 7
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 5T 2 -3
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 5T 7 2
Boise City, ID 7 12 5
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA 8 8 Steady
Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX 9 5 -4
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 10 57 47


Top 10 Best-Performing Small Cities

Metropolitan Statistical Area /
Metropolitan Division
2020 Rank 2018 Rank Change
Bend-Redmond, OR 1 1 Steady
Grants Pass, OR 2 23 21
Logan, UT-ID 3 10 7
St. George, UT 4 2 -2
Coeur d’Alene, ID 5T 5 Steady
The Villages, FL 5T 20 15
Idaho Falls, ID 7 24 17
Gainesville, GA 8 3 -5
Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL 9 13 4
Bellingham, WA 10 17 7



Find Your City Using the US Interactive Map

The 2020 Best-Performing Cities index uses data from 2019.


Key Findings

  • San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA, regains the crown as the best-performing large metro after 2014. The skilled workforce, abundant venture capital, and innovation and entrepreneurial culture support regional high value-added industries, including the expanding tech and biotech industries. The metro’s excellent performance in our five-year high-tech GDP growth (ranked first) illustrates this point.
  • Twenty-one top-performing large metros return from our 2018 Best-Performing Cities index. A substantial number of them are metros with dynamic tech sectors, including San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA; Provo-Orem, UT; Austin-Round Rock, TX; and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA. Others, like Reno, NV, continue to develop a diverse industrial base while experiencing rapid growth in the advanced manufacturing and technology sectors.
  • California secured four (San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA; Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA; and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA) of the top 25 spots among large metros. The Bay Area in Northern California consistently shows economic excellence powered by high value-added industries.

Biggest Gains

  • Recent rising demand in energy and natural resources, such as coal and natural gas, uplifts several resource-dependent metros in our index, including Tuscaloosa, AL; Grand Junction, CO; Odessa, TX; and Wheeling, WV-OH.
  • The Wheeling, WV-OH, metro is the biggest gainer among all metro areas in our index, jumping 111 spots to 70th place.
  • Other big gainers include California-Lexington Park, MD, and Clarksville, TN-KY, two regional economies anchored by the defense industry.
  • Still, other big gainers, including Sebring, FL; Carson City, NV; and Kingston, NY, have health care, retirement communities, and tourism driving their economic growth.


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