Madera County was ranked 32nd out of more than 200 small metropolitan statistical areas included in the report issued this week by the Santa Monica-based economic think tank, rising 37 spots from its No. 69 ranking in 2014. The improved ranking was largely based on the strength of Madera’s one-year job growth between 2013 and 2014 and improvement in salaries or wages between 2012 and 2013, under the formula used by Milken analysts to evaluate places were jobs are created and sustained.
Among 200 large metropolitan areas, the Fresno area experienced an even bigger surge in its Milken ranking between 2014 and 2015. Fresno County climbed 59 places up the list, from its ranking at 113 last year to 54th place in 2015. The city’s strongest metrics in the Milken analysis were one-year job growth between 2013 and 2014, as well as short-term job growth from August 2014 to August 2015 and one-year wage growth from 2012 to 2013.
What we’re seeing in Fresno, for example, is growth rates that are across the board.
Minoli Ratnatunga, research economist at the Milken Institute
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Other factors considered by Milken analysts were five-year wage growth from 2008 to 2013, the proportions of a community’s economic output from high-tech jobs, and concentrations of high-tech jobs in communities compared to the national average.
San Jose and San Francisco were ranked first and second nationally on the strength of their high-tech industries, while San Luis Obispo climbed into the Top 10.
“We’ve seen strong performance on the coast of California … and a lot of that is driven by the tech industry, where there is high job and wage growth that are part of the measures we consider,”said Minoli Ratnatunga, a research economist at the Milken Institute and one of the co-authors of the 2015 Best-Performing Cities report. “But if you look at the Central Valley metro areas, we see a lot of improvement in the rankings.” Bakersfield, she added, did very well during the recession, but has been hurt over the past two years by falling oil prices.
Large Valley metro areas rising in the Milken rankings were Merced, from 71st in 2014 to 47th this year; Visalia, 134th in 2014 to 79th in 2015; and Modesto, 131st last year to 85th in the 2015 report. Two Valley metro areas slipped in the rankings. Among large metro areas, Bakersfield nosedived from 28th last year to 64th this year, while Hanford and Kings County lost two spots, falling from 145th to 147th among the small metro areas.
“Metro areas with very stable performance year after year tend to decline in the rankings when there’s a recovery,” Ratnatunga added. “Other metro areas that lost a lot of employment, because of challenges in construction or energy or other sectors, when they recover there’s potential for much more impressive growth.”
113Fresno’s ranking last year
54Fresno’s ranking this year
The central San Joaquin Valley has historically been beset with higher rates of unemployment and poverty than state or national averages, while median wages are lower than the statewide average. Because of those factors, even modest growth tends to be magnified because the region is working its way up from a lower baseline. But what’s happening in the Valley involves more than just mathematical improvement.
“Certainly growing from a smaller base can lead to a larger percentage growth in one or two areas,” Ratnatunga said Wednesday. “But what we’re seeing in Fresno, for example, is growth rates that are across the board” except for five-year growth in high-tech economic productivity. “The fact that it’s across the board bodes well, and certainly means that the area is heading in the right direction.”
The state Employment Development Department reports that employment in Fresno County has grown from an annual average of 365,500 in 2010 to nearly 390,000 last year, an increase of about 6.6 percent. In Madera County, employment rose by more than 9.5 percent, from 51,300 in 2010 to 56,200 last year.
Bobby Kahn, executive director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission, said his county’s improved ranking points to success in efforts to balance jobs and economic growth. “With the addition of new industries coming into Madera County over the past few years, coupled with the growth and expansion of several local companies, there have been hundreds of new jobs created,” Kahn said in a written statement.
Job and wage growth rankings
The Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities report on where jobs are created and sustained showed most Valley metropolitan areas rising in their national rankings in job and wage growth.
Selected component rankings
Small metro areas
2015 rank (out of 201 small metro areas)
Madera (Madera County)
Hanford (Kings County)
Large metro areas
(out of 200 large metro areas)
Merced (Merced County)
Fresno (Fresno County)
Bakersfield (Kern County)
Visalia (Tulare County)
Modesto (Stanislaus County)
Source: Milken Institute