Four U.S. Cities on the Doorstep of a Full Jobs Recovery

August 23, 2021

The hiring surge this summer has been widespread across the U.S., keeping talent acquisition professionals busy as they work to fill the record-setting 10.1 million open jobs. As of July there were four major U.S. cities that have outperformed others in recouping jobs lost from the pandemic, all of which are within 1.0% of their pre-pandemic employment levels.

Even with 10.1 million jobs open in the U.S., higher labor costs and the shortage of workers continue to pose risks to the economy. Other factors may take longer to play out, like vaccination requirements and the number of workers opting for the vaccine, as well as the evolving monetary policy.

With job openings at record highs, attracting workers with competitive wages and overcoming the skills mismatch is critical to the labor market’s recovery. Talent acquisition professionals who can pinpoint the best locations for recruiting qualified talent will have a strategic advantage.

ThinkWhy’s talent intelligence software, LaborIQ®, assesses the health of job markets based on the:

  • Number of new jobs added
  • Percentage of growth in jobs from the prior period
  • Current employment level compared to the pre-pandemic level

The Map Below Is Interactive Click the dots to view key hiring stats for the 50 largest labor markets in the U.S.

Figures used are seasonally adjusted

Most New Jobs Added

The highest volumes of new jobs are influenced by a location’s population. Los Angeles has held the top spot since February, with 246,000 jobs added so far this year. Chicago and Boston had their largest monthly gains since August 2020. By sheer volume, larger markets will continue to lead in job gain even though the pandemic had a unique impact on the workforce in these locations. A significant number of added jobs is expected in these cities over the next few years, driving strong demand for talent acquisition professionals.

Cities Leading Job Growth

July metro-level employment data, combined with LaborIQ’s analysis of the nation’s top 50 most populous metro areas, show the following cities leading in job growth.

Cities Recovering Jobs the Fastest

Shedding light on the availability of talent is the current employment level compared to that of February 2020, just prior to economic fallout from the pandemic. This metric may not shift drastically month-to-month, but it is worth keeping an eye on, as these locations experience a tighter supply of talent.

In June, Salt Lake City became the first city to recoup jobs lost and continues to remain strong in job growth.

Phoenix, Austin, Jacksonville and Raleigh are all within 1.0% of regaining jobs lost during the pandemic. Businesses in these cities will likely search for workers in other areas for remote work or to relocate, in an effort to keep up with consumer demands.

While these lists focus on the top five markets, refer to the map above to find opportunities for your business. Locations underperforming in these categories, particularly related to pre-pandemic employment levels, may have a desirable talent pool or customer base to grow your business.


The labor market has posted monster gains the last three months, with approximately 2.5 million jobs added in the U.S. The competition for talent across the nation is fierce. It is critical for talent acquisition professionals to "strike while the iron is hot" as hiring demands continue to increase. For now, the rise in COVID-19 counts due to the Delta variant has added some degree of uncertainty to the hiring forecast through the end of 2021.

Of course, even with robust demand for talent, organizations are facing several challenges to get qualifed talent in the door and keeping top players already on the payroll. People are job hopping, transitioning solely to gig and freelance work to obtain desired flexibility, and compensation demands are at their highest in years - knowledge that employees are using to their advantage to find roles with increased wages and more flexible or 100% remote opportunities.

In all, demand for hiring has never been stronger, but supply challenges will persist for at least the next few months.

LaborIQ by ThinkWhy continuously forecasts and reports labor data at all levels, measuring impact to cities, industries, occupations and businesses across the U.S.