FILE - Austin Texas

Aerial view of Austin, Texas

The fastest growing cities in the country are in the South and West, according to new data released by the Census Bureau. Cities in the South and West held 14 of the 15 cities with the largest population gains in 2018.

“The South and West currently seem to be attractive places to move,” Adam McCann, financial writer at WalletHub, writes. “As the U.S. Census Bureau reports eight of the 15 cities with the largest population gains in 2018 were located in the South and six were in the West.”

The personal-finance website WalletHub analyzed the findings in its 2019’s Fastest-Growing Cities in America report. The report identifies where the most rapid local economic growth occurred over a period of seven years. It compared 515 cities across 17 key metrics within two key dimensions, “Sociodemographics” and “Jobs & Economy.” Some of the metrics include population growth, education level, unemployment rates, and growth in regional GDP per capita.

The report categorized each city according to population size guidelines. A large city represents more than 300,000 people; a midsize city, 100,000 to 300,000 people, and a small city is comprised of less than 100,000 people.

WalletHub also produced a separate ranking by city size.

Of the ten fastest growing cities overall, regardless of population, only Florida and Texas had more than one city make the list.

Lehigh Acres, Florida, recorded the fastest growing population in the U.S. last year. It was followed by Mount Pleasant, South Carolina; Bend, Oregon; Enterprise, Nevada; Frisco, Texas; Fort Myers, Florida; Meridian, Idaho; St. George, Utah; Cape Coral, Florida; and Round Rock, Texas.

Enterprise, Nevada, experienced the highest population growth, at 7.4 percent, having also made the same list last year. Frisco, Texas, recorded the highest job growth of 6.88 percent.

“Accommodating fast growth often requires cities to invest in infrastructure (long-lived assets) or increased municipal services (long-run commitments to municipal operating budgets),” says Russell R. Evans, associate professor of Economics at Oklahoma City University. “It’s a challenge for cities to trust that population and economic growth, so often they wait too long before committing to expanding infrastructure and services. As a result, fast growing cities are often trying to catch up to past growth rather than accommodate current growth.”

For large cities, Austin, Texas, saw the highest growth, followed by Miami, Seattle, Henderson, Nevada, and Denver.

Ten locations recording the slowest population growth were Portsmouth, Virginia, Waterloo, Iowa, Anchorage, Alaska, Albany, Georgia, Springfield, Illinois, Decatur, Illinois, Davenport, Iowa, Erie, Pennsylvania, Canton, Ohio, and Shreveport, Louisiana.

The slowest-growing city, Shreveport, recorded a $1 billion debt last fiscal year, according to the Louisiana State Legislative Auditor’s Office.

Albany, Georgia, experienced the highest population decrease, of 1.59 percent, WalletHub notes.

Five cities in California – Milpitas, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, San Jose and Mountain View – recorded the highest population growth according to real GDP per capita of 6.41 percent, according to the report.

Entrepreneurship and employment opportunities are disproportionately better in cities that are growing quickly, Evans adds, especially if the cities “are experiencing technological driven growth.” He also notes that employment growth and wage differentials “extend beyond the primary technology industry and into support and services sectors.”

Lafayette, Louisiana, saw the highest decrease in real GDP per capita, at 5.76 percent, while Peoria, Illinois, recorded the highest jobs decrease of 1.12 percent, according to the report.

Data used to create the ranking came from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the National Venture Capital Association, and Renwood RealtyTrac.