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8 Cities with Surprising Job Growth

Though we expect job creation nationwide to continue its sluggish pace, some areas will fare much better than others.

Here are eight metropolitan areas that we think are poised to become job-creating machines in the years ahead.

We zeroed in on metro areas of at least 1 million people and a track record of above-average population and job growth coming out of the 2008-2009 recession.

[More from Kiplinger: 10 Great Cities for Starting a Business]

Our analysis also considers demographic trends and industry growth that point to rapid job creation. We think each of these eight cities will outpace the nation's 7% job growth average between now and 2017, a forecast based on U.S. Department of Labor projections plus our reporting.

They're not the usual suspects -- the Houstons, Austins and Seattles that are riding high because they're well-known homes to lots of energy or tech firms. Take a look:

Nashville

Metro area population: 1.6 million
Current unemployment rate: 6.5% (vs. 8.2% nationally)
Job growth next five years: 18%
Number of new jobs: 140,000

Nashville wins the prize for fastest two-year job growth among all the metro areas on our list -- four times as fast as the U.S. as a whole. Vanderbilt University, the largest employer, will continue to add a variety of health care, education and service jobs. Nissan North America will add manufacturing jobs at its auto assembly plant and office jobs at its Nashville-area headquarters.

[More from Kiplinger: 10 of Today’s Hottest Jobs]

The capital of country music has a vibrant tech sector fueled by its highly regarded universities, and is becoming a center of data processing functions for cloud computing. The city will continue to be the freight transportation center for the state and the region, adding thousands of service jobs. It's the crossroads for truck and rail transport and a major center for UPS operations by land and air.

San Antonio

Metro area population: 2.2 million
Current unemployment rate: 6.2%
Job growth next five years: 16%
Number of new jobs: 150,000

Sure, nearby Austin, the state capital, is booming, but San Antonio's metro area is 20% larger in population and will add jobs nearly as fast over the next five years. Cheaper housing and commercial space lure many high-tech companies toward San Antonio, and the city is the hub of Central Texas' energy sector, especially its fast-growing natural gas segment. Major employers poised to expand include Valero, NuStar and Tesoro. Meanwhile, insurer USAA is the area's largest and fastest-growing private employer.

Orlando, Fla.

Metro area population: 2.2 million
Current unemployment rate: 8.2%
Job growth next five years: 15%
Number of new jobs: 150,000

The East Coast home of Mickey Mouse will be the fastest-growing job market of three Florida cites recovering most quickly from the state's housing crash. (The other two are Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale.) Disney, Universal and new resorts and hotels will dominate job growth, but health care is the fastest-growing industry, creating a wide array of professional, transportation, sales and personal service jobs.

[Related: Six Careers That Are Built to Last]

High tech is a surprisingly large and growing sector in Orlando. AT&T and Siemens are major employers. But Lockheed Martin, which employs 13,000 people, will be cutting jobs now that NASA's Space Shuttle program has ended.

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