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GDP Notes: City Folk More Productive Than Country Cousins; Ag Not Driving Fastest Growth

The Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina ranks our country’s 50 largest cities by economic growth rates. The 50 extended metropolitan areas surveyed all have populations of at least 1.3 million and together include 65% of the American population, but they produce 72% of all American economic activity. Who says city slickers are slackers?

The Kenan Institute says it is trying to measure local gross domestic product in real time; the report was published in October, so we can guess that the report attempts to give local GDP for the third quarter of this year. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated last month that national GDP growth in Q3 was 2.6%. Only seven cities on the Kenan Institute’s list beat that figure, suggesting that Kenan’s methodology runs a little hotter than the BEA’s:

  1. San Francisco Bay Area, CA: 4.8%
  2. Austin, TX: 4.3%
  3. Seattle, WA: 3.5%
  4. Raleigh and Durham, NC: 3.4%
  5. Dallas, TX: 3.1%
  6. Denver, CO: 3.0%
  7. Salt Lake City, UT: 2.8%

44 of the 50 biggest metros show GDP growing. Two—Greensboro, NC, and St. Louis, MO—are flat, while four are shrinking a little:

  1. Detroit, MI: –0.1%
  2. Memphis, TN: –0.4%
  3. Virginia Beach, VA: –0.4%
  4. Milwaukee, WI: –0.5%

Showing most cities growing is an improvement from Q2, when the BEA says 40 states and D.C. saw shrinking GDP. The Kenan Institute contends that technical recession does not constitute a “significant slowdown” because the labor market has remained strong.

Memo to Curt Soehl: in its summary of the reasons for growth in the ten hottest GDP towns, the Kenan Institute doesn’t mention agriculture. The growth drivers are information technology, biotech, healthcare, clean energy, and financial services. Tourism puts Orlando and New Orleans in Kenan’s top 10, but that could be a temporary artifact of the post-pandemic return of travelers, not a permanent recipe for exceptional GDP growth.


  1. P. Aitch 2022-11-27 17:10

    All 10 of Americas top cities by population vote Democrat. Of the top 25 cities by population only 3 vote Republican. (Jacksonville, Fort Worth, and Oklahoma City).
    It’s true that Democrats work harder than Republicans work but cities don’t make you work harder. Its that harder workers move to the cities because the rewards are better. Also, we take pride in paying the bills and providing financial support for the rural states where workers tend to be slackers. You know; the way farmers used to take pride in feeding the world. American-style farming doesn’t really grow food for hungry people, you know. Forty percent of the biggest crop — corn — goes into fuel for cars. Most of the second-biggest crop — soybeans — is fed to animals.

  2. grudznick 2022-11-27 17:27

    BAH. There are no lazy farmers.

    One hard-core conservative by hisownself with naught but a sandwich and a tractor on the prairie can out work and out produce 20 libbies in the big city. This has been proven over and over and need not be proven again. This study doesn’t take into account how Big City Libbies are like lemmings, they just thrown masses of themselves into a problem because there are so darned many of them packed into the unhealthy and socially dangerous cityscapes.

    grudznick has visited many big cities and knows this to be true. I could show you photos if Mr. H let us blog photos here, and you would immediately concur with ol’ grudznick when you saw my Kodaks and Polaroids.

  3. Mark Anderson 2022-11-27 17:53

    Oh grudz, small town boy, you shouldn’t reveal yourself. Cities are the place of Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York, “if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere. Start spreading the real world news grudz.

  4. larry kurtz 2022-11-27 18:01

    Do the math: area of land on Earth is 52.2 million square miles, water about 140 million square miles, 8 billion humans.

    The Mesa Verdean ancients who occupied the Green Table for nearly a millennium grew to a population of about five thousand creating spectacular architecture and art-of-fact but ultimately consumed every living thing atop Chapin and Wetherill Mesas.

    Theirs is a cautionary tale of ecological destruction followed by extirpation: a trophic cascade where human is the apex predator and decimates a landscape.

    “Modern society” is a product of the forbidden fruit–agriculture. Cain, the farmer, slew Abel, the hunter-gatherer and, yes, humans’ collective knowledge is pushing us home to the stars whose dust make us who we are. Reproduction is the reason, food is the fuel. Humans are merely Terran tools to go forth and find more…unless or until we kill the Earth before she kills us for taking more than our share.

  5. larry kurtz 2022-11-27 18:10

    These days only about 500,000 bison inhabit North America or less than 1 percent of their historic range, just 3 percent of the Earth’s land surface remains untouched by human development and a sixth mass extinction is underway.

    Urban sprawl, accelerated global warming and drought are reducing productivity on the remaining grasslands of the High Plains and Mountain West so if some Republicans are angry about rewilding means it’s the right thing to do.

  6. P. Aitch 2022-11-27 18:24

    P. Aitch really got grudz’ goat today. He’s sputtering and popping like a John Deere B. ha ha ha :)

  7. grudznick 2022-11-27 18:27

    International H

  8. Mark Anderson 2022-11-27 18:43

    Grudz, Sid Vicious describes you perfectly in his rendition of My Way.

  9. O 2022-11-27 19:20

    I have to agree with Grudznick, there are no lazy farmers: they work exceptionally hard for their government checks; keeping all that subsidy money rolling in is hard work. Now if we could get the government to subsidize what was in the best interests of the citizens — not the best interests of big food and energy corporations — we could get somewhere with all that tax money being spent and hard work being done.

  10. grudznick 2022-11-27 19:32

    Mr. Anderson, I did not know that Sid “Vicious” Eudy sang at all. That’s what grudznick loves about blogging at this blogging place…I learn new things most every day.

  11. Richard Schriever 2022-11-28 08:26

    grudz – No farmer built his tractor. Take away THAT contribution to his “work” by the 100’s of city folk and what have you got? Hell, a farmer can’t even keep his own lights on at night without a lot of “unseen” help.

  12. Jenny 2022-11-29 10:25

    Well, we have to keep working hard so farmers can keep getting their welfare checks that we give them every year. 28 billion in two years (2018-2019). Maybe I should have gotten into the farming business with the land I inherited instead of selling it.

    (And South Dakota Farmers should ESPECIALLY thank their MN neighbors for their welfare checks since we are a responsible blue state supporting you cheapskates).

  13. John 2022-11-29 15:55

    Cows and hogs will be the floppy disks of 2030. Folks will be amazed in 2050 that for centuries we raised billions of cows, hogs, and their feed.
    Unilever (doing business as Ben and Jerry’s) plan having precision fermentation ice cream in 2023. This is amazing because it’s a leap of direct to consumer. Most of the milk used is business – to – business via ingredients for protein shakes, bars, processed foods. If Unilever is confident enough to attack the direct to consumer market that foretells that the adoption and cost curves are well-along their exponential transformations.
    Just toured the Tillamook Dairy. It, Land-o-Lakes, Blue Bell, etc., are dead dairies walking.

    South Dakota is worse than standing still – our ag economy is shifting into reverse. Similar to those big dairies, it does not yet know it or is doing nothing discernible about it.

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