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Which Cities are Making Americans Richer - and Poorer

Lauren Lyster
Daily Ticker

When it comes to jobs, the big picture in the U.S. is one of lackluster growth and an elevated unemployment rate of 7.3%. But within the U.S., there are some cities that are booming - pockets of economic opportunity where good jobs with solid wages are being created. There are also the laggards, where your chances of economic prosperity are handicapped by location.

The Milken Institute tracks all of these factors in its annual best-performing cities index, which was just released for 2013.

Related: The Best Performing Cities in 2012: Milken Institute

"We're looking at factors that can be measured with a series of metrics that aren't subject to preference," explains Ross DeVol, chief research officer at the Milken Institute. These metrics include "job growth and quality of jobs measured by wages," and they "look over five years [along with the] most recent year to get a sense of momentum - where jobs are being created and sustained."

So if you're looking for a good, high paying job, where should you move?

Topping the list of the best performing cities this year is Austin, Texas, which earned the No. 1 spot because of its booming tech sector. Other cities in the top five include Provo, Utah; San Francisco; San Jose and Salt Lake City - other cities with thriving tech sectors.

Interestingly, some of the best performing tech metros were successful despite being high cost, high regulation locations (e.g. San Francisco and San Jose), according to DeVol. He attributes that to R&D and infrastructure that makes it easier to innovate there rather than lower cost places.

Related: Which Cities Americans Are Moving to – and Escaping From

Other cities topping the list are energy-focused. In Texas, the local energy industry thrust Houston, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi into the top 25 best-performing cities, along with Bakersfield, California.

Oil production has helped propel Fargo and Bismarck - both in North Dakota - into the top five small cities.

Some cities did not fare so well this year. Washington, D.C. fell from No. 5 to No. 45 on the list. In fact, it's the first time since 2008 that the nation's capital has not been in the Top 25. DeVol attributes that to a slowdown in the impact of stimulus spending, which helped fuel growth post-financial crisis.

Related: More Poor People Are Now Living in Suburbs Than Cities

We also asked DeVol what cities people should run from, leave, or avoid altogether because of their poor economic prospects. Check out the video to find out what he said!

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