Area's job growth among best in nation
Local job growth is outperforming other parts of the country.
Reflecting broader trends in the Southeast, Charleston was rated by the Milken Institute as the 12th-best metropolitan area in the country at creating and sustaining jobs, according to a new study by the California-based economic think tank.
Last year, the city was ranked No. 22.
The Holy City was among a handful of Southeastern cities that dominated Milken's "Best Performing Cities" list, which is based on job and wage growth. Myrtle Beach, Raleigh, Wilmington and five Florida areas also ranked highly.
None of the cities in the top 25 were in the Northeast or Midwest, the report pointed out.
"At least in the case of the Southeast, the cost of setting up a business would be relatively less expensive than other areas," said Armen Bedroussian, a Milken research economist. "There's obviously companies that want to set up shop down there in Charleston, and there's a good reason for that."
During the past five years, Charleston's employment base grew 7.1 percent faster than the national average, Milken found. Wages and salaries also outpaced the rest of the country by 13.7 percent during that period, though more specific figures were not included in the report.
According to the institute, Charleston's low cost of living relative to other cities "provides more opportunities for retirees outside the area, while its diverse industry base attracts skilled workers." Among the examples Milken researchers cited was the opening of the DaimlerChrysler van assembly plant in North Charleston.
It also noted strong growth in data processing and the telecommunications industry, presumably a partial reference to the $600 million data center that Internet search giant Google is building near Goose Creek.
As of August, the state's Employment Security Commission counted 1.936 million jobs in the Palmetto State, up 35,000 from the previous year.
The Milken study, which measures employment and salary growth over one- and five-year spans, is an annual update and ranking of those figures for the 200 largest metro areas in the country.
Columbia earned high marks for its dramatic job growth during the past year: The capital city's overall ranking jumped from 134th in 2006 to 69th this year.
Some areas of the Southeast might not do so well over the next year, Bedroussian said.
He predicted the nation's housing slump will hamper growth in some smaller metropolitan areas, which tend to feel the effects of national trends later than big cities.
"That might not have hit Charleston so much, but we might see (the job growth index) come down a bit as a result," he said.