When the 2010 U.S. Census population figures were released, they showed that nearly one-fourth of the largest metropolitan areas—12 out of the top 50—had grown by more than 20 percent during the 2000s, led by 42 percent growth rates in both Las Vegas, Nevada, and Raleigh, North Carolina. It turns out, though, that metro areas grew quite differently between the first half of the decade and the second half, which was dominated by the Great Recession. In fact, almost two-thirds of the top 50 metro areas saw slower growth during the second half of the decade. Phoenix, for instance, grew by 19 percent from 2000 to 2005, then slowed to 8 percent growth from 2005 to 2010. Atlanta slipped from 16 percent growth in the first half to 7 percent in the second half. And Las Vegas cooled off from 24 percent growth to a still-robust 14 percent rate.

Only 18 top metro areas grew faster during the second half of the 2000s, and somewhat surprisingly, the two metros with the highest growth rate differential between 2005–2010 and 2000–2005 were in California: San Francisco and San Jose. Both grew at a 4.5 percent pace during the second half of the 2000s after beginning the decade with 1 percent growth. Overall, though, a majority of the 18 metropolitan areas that accelerated population growth during the recession were located away from the coasts in the central United States—places like San Antonio, Austin, and Houston in Texas; Nashville, Louisville, and Oklahoma City in the South; plus Milwaukee and Columbus, Ohio in the Midwest.

This comparison between the first and second halves of the 2000s cannot be considered statistically absolute, however. The 2000 and 2010 population figures were actual census counts, while the 2005 numbers were estimates. So half-decade growth rates could be influenced by the Census Bureau’s assumptions about a metro area’s growth in 2005. For the most part, though, population growth during 2005–2010 tended to follow job growth. The implication for ULI members is that, much like the new-homes market, metropolitan growth is recovering somewhat faster in parts of the central United States than along the coasts.

Below are the top ten largest metropolitan areas with higher growth rates in the 2005–2010 period compared with the 2000–2005 period:

Rank

Metros with Over

1 Million Population

2010 Census Population

2005–2010

Growth (#)

2005–2010

Growth (%)

2000–2005

Growth (#)

2000–2005

Growth (%)

2005–2010 Growth Rate Increase vs. 2000–2005

1

San Francisco, CA

4,335,391

182,703

4.40%

28,948

0.70%

3.70%

2

San Jose, CA

1,836,911

81,923

4.67%

19,169

1.10%

3.56%

3

Nashville, TN

1,589,934

167,390

11.77%

110,755

8.44%

3.32%

4

San Antonio, TX

2,142,508

252,711

13.37%

178,094

10.40%

2.97%

5

Boston, MA

4,552,402

140,567

3.19%

20,491

0.47%

2.72%

6

Oklahoma City, OK

1,252,987

96,175

8.31%

61,391

5.60%

2.71%

7

Louisville, KY

1,283,566

75,114

6.22%

46,477

4.00%

2.22%

8

Seattle, WA

3,439,809

236,495

7.38%

159,436

5.24%

2.14%

9

Milwaukee, WI

1,555,908

43,053

2.85%

12,114

0.81%

2.04%

10

Austin, TX

1,716,289

263,760

18.16%

202,766

16.22%

1.93%

 Source: U.S. Census.