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By: Alex Carrick on December 22nd, 2017

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10 U.S. City Clusters

Economic News

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, on July 1, 2016 (i.e., the latest date for which data is available), there were 54 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in America with populations of one million or more each.

2017-12-22-US-City-Dallas-Graphic

The 54 MSAs appear in accompanying Table 1 and they include San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Honolulu, Tulsa and Fresno, each with populations of between 980,000 and 999,000, did not quite make the cut.

The boundary for an MSA encompasses an urban core plus suburbs for which there are close back-and-forth home-to-workplace commuting ties.

Table 1 ranks the 54 MSAs in three ways: (1) according to population level; (2) by year-over-year nominal change in population level; and (3) percentage change in population, July 1, 2016 versus July 1, 2015.

There are few surprises in the left one-third of Table 1, with New York (20.2 million) and Los Angeles (13.3 million) being the dominant population centers in the country.

Chicago (9.5 million) has been falling off the pace and will soon be challenged by Dallas-Ft. Worth (7.2 million). This is made clear by the middle section of Table 1.

Dallas-Ft. Worth has been leading all U.S. MSAs with respect to year-over-year nominal increase in population, an outsized +143,000 between July 2015 and July 2016. Runner-up Houston hasn’t been far behind with a +125,000 increase in resident count.

Among the Top 10 cities for nominal population increase, three are in Texas and three in Florida. Rounding out the Texas contingent is Austin (+58,000) and Florida’s representatives are: Miami (+65,0000); Tampa (+61,000); and Orlando (+59,000).

Phoenix (+94,000), Atlanta (+91,000), Seattle (+72,000) and Washington D.C. (+54,000) are the four cities outside Texas and Florida that are among the Top 10 for year-over-year increases in nominal population.

Chicago (-19,600), on the other hand, has been experiencing a population contraction. Other cities where the population count has been moving in reverse are: San Juan (-38,100); Pittsburgh (-9,000); Cleveland (-4,300); and Hartford (-3,100).

The final third of Table 1, on the right-hand side, ranks MSAs according to year-over-year percentage change in population. Again, cities in Texas and Florida are among the standouts.

All four major cities in Texas are in the Top Dozen for percent change year over year: Austin (+2.9%); Dallas-Ft. Worth (+2.0%); San Antonio (also +2.0%); and Houston (+1.9%).

There are three Florida cities in the Top Dozen, but this time Jacksonville (+2.1%) in fifth spot is handily ahead of Miami (+1.1%), which appears considerably further, in position number 22.

Orlando (+2.5%) and Tampa (+2.1%) are the other Florida cities in the Top Dozen ranking for year-over-year percentage change in population.

The state of North Carolina also shows well, with Raleigh (+2.5%) and Charlotte (+2.0%) ranking 3rd and 8th respectively.

Las Vegas (+2.2%), Phoenix (+2.1%) and Nashville (+2.0%) are the other leaders in the Top Dozen.

Table 1: Population of U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs)
Rank MSA Population
July 1, 2016
  Rank MSA Nominal Change
in Population
 Jul 2016/Jul 2015
  Rank* MSA % Change
in Population
Jul 2016/Jul 2015 
   
1 New York       20,153,634   1 Dallas-Fort Worth                        143,435   1 Austin 2.9%
2 Los Angeles       13,310,447   2 Houston                        125,005   2 Orlando 2.5%
3 Chicago         9,512,999   3 Phoenix                          93,680   3 Raleigh 2.5%
4 Dallas-Fort Worth         7,233,323   4 Atlanta                          90,650   4 Las Vegas 2.2%
5 Houston         6,772,470   5 Seattle                          71,805   5 Jacksonville 2.1%
6 Washington         6,131,977   6 Miami                          64,670   6 Phoenix 2.1%
7 Philadelphia         6,070,500   7 Tampa                          61,085   7 Tampa 2.1%
8 Miami         6,066,387   8 Orlando                          59,125   8 Charlotte 2.0%
9 Atlanta         5,789,700   9 Austin                          58,301   9 Dallas-Fort Worth 2.0%
10 Boston         4,794,447   10 Washington                          53,508   10 Nashville 2.0%
11 San Francisco         4,679,166   11 Riverside                          52,400   11 San Antonio 2.0%
12 Phoenix         4,661,537   12 Charlotte                          49,671   12 Houston 1.9%
13 Riverside         4,527,837   13 San Antonio                          47,906   13 Seattle 1.9%
14 Detroit         4,297,617   14 Las Vegas                          46,375   14 Portland 1.7%
15 Seattle         3,798,902   15 Denver                          44,261   15 Atlanta 1.6%
16 Minneapolis-St. Paul         3,551,036   16 Los Angeles                          41,619   16 Denver 1.6%
17 San Diego         3,317,749   17 Portland                          40,148   17 Salt Lake City 1.6%
18 Tampa         3,032,171   18 San Francisco                          36,939   18 Sacramento 1.3%
19 Denver         2,853,077   19 Nashville                          36,337   19 Oklahoma City 1.2%
20 St. Louis         2,807,002   20 New York                          35,571   20 Riverside 1.2%
21 Baltimore         2,798,886   21 Minneapolis-St. Paul                          32,784   21 Columbus 1.1%
22 Charlotte         2,474,314   22 Raleigh                          31,565   22 Miami 1.1%
23 Orlando         2,441,257   23 Jacksonville                          30,196   23 Kansas City 1.0%
24 San Antonio         2,429,609   24 Sacramento                          28,830   24 Indianapolis 0.9%
25 Portland         2,424,955   25 Boston                          27,692   25 Minneapolis-St. Paul 0.9%
26 Pittsburgh         2,342,299   26 San Diego                          27,504   26 Richmond 0.9%
27 Sacramento         2,296,418   27 Columbus                          21,376   27 Washington 0.9%
28 Cincinnati         2,165,139   28 Kansas City                          20,045   28 Grand Rapids 0.8%
29 San Juan         2,157,729   29 Salt Lake City                          18,686   29 San Diego 0.8%
30 Las Vegas         2,155,664   30 Indianapolis                          17,688   30 San Francisco 0.8%
31 Kansas City         2,104,509   31 Oklahoma City                          16,246   31 Tucson 0.8%
32 Austin         2,056,405   32 Richmond                          11,294   32 Boston 0.6%
33 Cleveland         2,055,612   33 San Jose                          10,238   33 Cincinnati 0.5%
34 Columbus         2,041,520   34 Cincinnati                             9,747   34 Louisville 0.5%
35 Indianapolis         2,004,230   35 Grand Rapids                             8,762   35 New Orleans 0.5%
36 San Jose         1,978,816   36 Philadelphia                             8,197   36 San Jose 0.5%
37 Nashville         1,865,298   37 Tucson                             8,001   37 Los Angeles 0.3%
38 Virginia Beach         1,726,907   38 New Orleans                             6,812   38 Baltimore 0.2%
39 Providence         1,614,750   39 Louisville                             5,847   39 Birmingham 0.2%
40 Milwaukee         1,572,482   40 Baltimore                             5,049   40 New York 0.2%
41 Jacksonville         1,478,212   41 Virginia Beach                             3,439   41 Virginia Beach 0.2%
42 Oklahoma City         1,373,211   42 Birmingham                             2,560   42 Memphis 0.1%
43 Memphis         1,342,842   43 Providence                             2,176   43 Philadelphia 0.1%
44 Raleigh         1,302,946   44 Memphis                                888   44 Providence 0.1%
45 Louisville         1,283,430   45 Detroit                                   79   45 Detroit 0.0%
46 Richmond         1,281,708   46 St. Louis                          (1,328)   46 St. Louis 0.0%
47 New Orleans         1,268,883   47 Milwaukee                          (1,867)   47 Milwaukee -0.1%
48 Hartford         1,206,836   48 Rochester                          (2,401)   48 Buffalo -0.2%
49 Salt Lake City         1,186,187   49 Buffalo                          (2,675)   49 Chicago -0.2%
50 Birmingham         1,147,417   50 Hartford                          (3,117)   50 Cleveland -0.2%
51 Buffalo         1,132,804   51 Cleveland                          (4,317)   51 Rochester -0.2%
52 Rochester         1,078,879   52 Pittsburgh                          (8,972)   52 Hartford -0.3%
53 Grand Rapids         1,047,099   53 Chicago                        (19,570)   53 Pittsburgh -0.4%
54 Tucson         1,016,206   54 San Juan                        (38,144)   54 San Juan -1.7%
* The % change rankings are based on more than one decimal point.
Data source: U.S. Bureau of the Census and American FactFinder.
Table: ConstructConnect.

City Clusters:

Besides its MSA designation, the Census Bureau also has a city category entitled Combined Statistical Area, or CSA.

MSAs already include some ‘combined’ statistical areas, − for example when there are twin cities, such as Dallas-Fort Worth and Minneapolis-St. Paul. But CSAs go a step further. They unite urban centers which have such a degree of proximity, they may even fall within a single media market.

San Francisco-San Jose and Washington-Baltimore are CSAs.

In anticipation of the additional population change that is coming over the next decade or so, the following takes the notion of ‘combined’ MSAs even further.

Employing the web-site www.distancefromto.net, I’ve linked together those MSAs where the separation from one to the next is 100 miles or less. The distance measurement is ‘as the crow flies’ between downtown cores.

One hundred miles is an admittedly arbitrary figure, but it’s not much of a jaunt by car and leaving the outskirts of one urban area will quickly lead into the perimeter of the other. (When the near-by cities are quite large, the differential space between borders may all but disappear.)

This exercise has yielded ten clusters. Sometimes the MSAs are lined up in a string. Sometimes, they are mildly scattered. But always, in what appears below, there is a gap of only one hundred miles or less between two of the MSAs in the cluster.

It should also be noted that I’ve only added up MSAs having populations of one million or more each. There may be other nearby MSAs with populations of less than one million that have not been included in the ‘combined’ or ‘clustered’ calculations.

  • New York-Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington: These four MSAs tie together the financial capital of New York with the country’s center of politics, Washington, D.C. The summation of the four MSA population levels is 35.2 million. The latest year-over-year increase in population for these four MSAs was +0.3%, amounting to +102,000 individuals.
  • Boston-Providence-Hartford-New York-Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington-Richmond-Virginia Beach: While the four cities in the preceding ‘bullet-point’ are one obvious grouping, it’s amazingly true that there are nine cities along America’s population-dense East Coast where the size of the hopscotch-skip from the extremity at the north (Boston) down to the far reach at the south (Virginia Beach) is never more than 100 miles. The population size of this combined-MSA-megalopolis in the middle of last year was 45.8 million. It was growing at +0.3% annually, or +144,000 individuals per year.
  • Los Angeles-Inland Empire-San Diego: Riverside, San Bernardino and the municipality of Ontario, California, comprise the Inland Empire. This three-MSA grouping had a population of 12.2 million on July 1, 2016. It was growing at a rate of +0.6% per year, or +122,000 people annually.
  • Chicago-Milwaukee: The two MSAs along western Lake Michigan’s shoreline totaled 11.1 million people in mid-2016, but the direction of change was downwards, -0.2% annually and -21,000 in nominal terms.
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Sacramento-San Jose: This ultra-high-tech zone, in July 2016, contained a population of 9.0 million that was increasing at a rate of +0.9% annually, or +76,000 in nominal terms.
  • Columbus-Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Louisville: This 100-miles-or-less grouping of MSAs may be the most diverse of all. Nevertheless, it yielded a summed population of 7.5 million in mid-2016, which was +0.7% higher than in mid-2015. In resident-terms, that was +55,000.
  • Phoenix-Tucson: The combined population of these two MSAs was 5.7 million in mid-2016. More notable, though, was the speedy population growth rate, +1.8% annually, which amounted to +102,000 more residents per year.
  • Tampa-Orlando: At 5.5 million, this was another relatively smaller population grouping in mid-2016. But at +2.2% annually, or +120,000 residents annually, the rate of population increase was remarkable. (By the way, neither Jacksonville nor Miami is within 100 miles of Tampa-Orlando.)
  • San Antonio-Austin: This two-city entity is like Tampa-Orlando, in that two big urban centers – in this instance, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston −  are close by, but not quite within 100 miles. The combined population of San Antonio-Austin was 4.9 million in July 2016. The rate of population growth, though, was a stunning +2.4% annually, or +106,000 individuals.
  • Buffalo-Rochester: At 2.2 million people on July 1, 2016, this was the tiniest of the ten clusters. Furthermore, it was suffering from an exodus of -0.2% per year, or -5,100 individuals.

Pittsburgh and Cleveland are separated by 115 miles and didn’t quite make the list as a ‘cluster’.

Population levels and degrees of change are key drivers of construction activity in local markets.

As a final note, the annual population change for the entire U.S. is currently +0.7% per year, which amounts to +2.0 million people – or the equivalent of two new MSAs of one million each.

Two new MSAs of one million each means the need for a whole lot of new construction every year.