Finest Performing Cities in 2021: Can Denver Make a COVID Comeback?

DENVER, CO – The coronavirus pandemic has impacted economic performance in Denver and other U.S. cities in very different ways. However, a new ranking suggests that cities will recover faster if workers not only have job opportunities in high-tech and other innovative industries, but also an affordable place to call home.

Now in its 22nd year, the Best Performing Cities Index measures the economic vitality of 200 large and 201 small urban areas. The main objective of this year’s index, compiled by the Milken Institute – a non-profit, non-partisan think tank – is to provide insight into how well cities are prepared for post-pandemic challenges and growth opportunities.

The institute’s results show that the usual top performing coastal cities are far more affected than their inland neighbors and will likely be more difficult to recover from a pandemic-induced recession.

Denver is among the cities that outperformed others during the pandemic, according to the Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities Index 2021.

While Denver was ranked 18th among major cities in 2020, the pandemic has led job seekers to consider cities that not only have significant short-term job growth in high-tech and other innovative industries, but also offer an abundance of affordable housing.

To create the index, researchers looked at a city’s one- and five-year job growth, wage growth, and gross domestic product in high-tech and innovative industries such as information technology, software processing, and aerospace manufacturing.

While the index was originally created to define a “best performing city” as a center of sustainable job creation, this year’s index also revolved around inclusion. Factors such as the affordability of housing and broadband access for households in each municipality were taken into account.

“Both of these factors were very important in finding and delivering employment opportunities during the pandemic,” said Misael Galdamez, a senior policy analyst at the Milken Institute who co-authored this year’s report. “These are real issues both during and before the pandemic. People don’t see cities as a viable option if they can’t afford to raise their families there. ”

Here’s how Denver ranked on the list in these specific areas when compared to other cities:

  • One-year job growth: # 7
  • Five-Year Job Growth: No. 38
  • Five-year wage growth: No. 28
  • Five-year high-tech GDP: No. 66
  • Five-Year Housing Affordability: No. 120

Also new this year, cities have been grouped into five levels, giving policymakers, business leaders and residents the ability to more easily compare the economic performance of a similar city with their own.

The report also named the following top performing cities in Colorado:

  • Fort Collins: 12th place
  • Colorado Springs: Rank No. 17
  • Greeley: Rank No. 43
  • Boulder: Rank No. 44

Grand Junction and Pueblo are among the small towns that outperform others throughout the pandemic, according to the report. Grand Junction was ranked 57th in the Small Towns category and pueblo ranked 52nd.

The cities most affected by the pandemic according to this year’s index include “superstar cities”, which have historically been high on the index.

For example, California cities like San Jose and San Francisco dropped out of the top 5 this year, finishing 24th and 22nd, respectively. In last year’s ranking, San Francisco topped the list of top performing major cities, and San Jose was 5th.

“While these cities have lots of high-paying, high-skilled work, they typically also have a lot of low-paid, low-skilled work,” Galdamez said, noting that low-skilled service jobs are hardest hit by the pandemic layoffs and closings.

The biggest challenges for these cities are “equity and access,” according to Galdamez, who said leaders should look for ways to not only create more middle-class jobs, but also to ensure that people have their lives and lives Can work there.

Meanwhile, the big cities in the mountains to the west and south outperform many coastal areas, largely due to high short-term job growth and cheaper housing.

Salt Lake City, for example, moved up 21 places to 4th place this year, and Huntsville, Alabama had one of the biggest leaps on this year’s index – the city moved up 39 places to round out the top 10 major cities.

Here are the top 10 best performing big cities in 2021 according to this year’s index:

1. Provo-Orem, Utah
2. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
3. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
4. Salt Lake City, Utah
5. Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina
6. Boise, Idaho
7. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, Arizona
8. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee
9. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah
10. Huntsville, Alabama

These are the 10 top performing smaller cities:

1. Idaho Falls, Idaho
2. Logan, Utah-Idaho
3. The Villages, Florida
4. St. George, Utah
5. Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, Alabama
6. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
7. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
8. Sebastian Vero Beach, Florida
9. Gainesville, Georgia
10. Charlottesville, Virginia

The full 2021 city index can be found at

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