Metro area population: 1.2 million
Current unemployment rate: 7.4%
Job growth next five years: 14%
Number of new jobs: 75,000
Raleigh and its environs will continue to be a magnet for high-tech and biotech job creation. Major employers adding the most jobs will be Duke University, the University of North Carolina, IBM, Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, Nortel, Verizon and Lenovo. As the capital of a state with healthy finances, Raleigh will also steadily add government jobs. Moreover, it's a regional hub for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, supporting thousands of related private-sector jobs.
Metro area population: 2.2 million
Current unemployment rate: 7.8%
Job growth next five years: 12%
Number of new jobs: 130,000
After devastating job losses in the recession, Portland has made a spectacular recovery, fueled by the tech mini-boom and the area's attractiveness to young people. Anchored by Intel and its 16,000 employees, Portland will maintain its moniker as the Silicon Forest for its more than 1,200 high-tech firms, most of them small to medium-size.
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High tech will continue to be the fastest-growing sector, but other major job gains will come in sportswear. The presence of Nike, Adidas and Columbia Sportswear has spawned many smaller sportswear-related firms that are hiring designers, marketers and salespeople. The industry has also given rise to a vibrant graphic design sector. Portland, the third-largest seaport on the West Coast, will also continue to grow as a major transportation and shipping center.
Metro area population: 1.3 million
Current unemployment rate: 4%
Job growth next five years: 10% to 12%
Number of new jobs: 50,000 to 70,000
The nation's natural gas boom is propelling Oklahoma City's growth. The area is home to large gas firms Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy, as well as scores of privately held exploration and energy services outfits, such as Kirkpatrick Oil and Mustang Fuel. It's also the state capital and the site of Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma's medical school, all large and growing employers.
Metro area population: 4.3 million
Current unemployment rate: 6.6%
Job growth next five years: 8% to 10%
Number of new jobs: 100,000 to 150,000
A solid transportation infrastructure and low labor costs make the Valley of the Sun a strong magnet for firms fleeing higher-cost California. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council notes that 30% of relocations in 2011 were from California. And a silver lining in the wake of the housing crash: inexpensive real estate.
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The city is an emerging player in the making and distribution of lower-end electronics: major employers include Motorola, Honeywell and Avnet, all of which are hiring. Other Fortune 500 firms looking for help are mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, US Airways and PetSmart.
Metro area population: 5.4 million
Current unemployment rate: 8.5%
Job growth next five years: 8%
Number of new jobs: 180,000
It won't expand as fast as the others on our list, but Atlanta's size and diversity will make it a good place to relocate and look for work. One key to Atlanta's bright future is the nexus between transportation and online retailing. UPS and AT&T Mobility, with its 100 million wireless customers, are both based there, and they will be key players in America's consumer-spending shift from bricks to clicks.
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Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, and Delta Airlines are among Fortune 500 giants based in Atlanta. Delta Airlines and AirTran are likely to shrink their workforces, as is struggling retailer Home Depot. But regional energy giant Southern Co. and Newell Rubbermaid, maker of many things for the kitchen and garage, see expansions.
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