Top U.S. Job Markets Leading the Recovery

March 17, 2021

The U.S. economy is gaining momentum, and 2021 could be one of the biggest years of hiring on record. To see which locations are making up the most ground recovering jobs, we look at the latest metro-level employment data for January from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Knowing where to source talent and target recruitment efforts is always of interest to talent acquisition professionals. In this article, you can find the quick list of top labor markets based on monthly job growth, job gain level, and percentage of jobs left to recapture compared to the pre-pandemic employment level.

Are you ready to see the nation’s hottest hiring markets? Below we identify cities at the top of the rankings for each category.

Job Growth

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

These five cities experienced the highest job growth in January 2021. Talent acquisition professionals working in these cities are likely busy filling open positions, while also trying to retain talent to keep up productivity levels. Seasonally adjusted job growth informs employers where jobs are being created month-to-month and allows comparisons to smaller metros with larger hubs. This comparison is helpful in gauging the pandemic’s impact on larger cities.

Job Gain

Job gain is influenced by a location’s population and is a measure of the number of jobs for a given period. Since overall job gain often favors bigger cities, it’s not surprising that New York tops the list. By sheer volume, LaborIQ expects these larger labor markets to continue to dominate this list. Talent acquisition professionals will have many positions to fill, especially as businesses expand their operations and will need more workers to meet demand.

Pre-pandemic Employment Levels

Another metric that sheds light on the labor market is how the current employment level compares to that of February 2020, which preceded the pandemic economic fallout. One year into the pandemic, this metric is a good indicator to track the pace of the economic recovery. LaborIQ lists the following five cities as being closest to their pre-pandemic employment levels.

The lists above focus on the top hiring markets but be sure to refer back to the map for other opportunities for your business. Locations underperforming in these categories, particularly related to pre-pandemic employment levels, could be opportunities to find talent for either remote work or relocation.


LaborIQ expected job growth in early 2021 to be slow compared to record-setting growth during summer 2020, which has held true. Still, momentum in adding jobs back to the labor market is starting to increase, and confidence appears to be growing as the virus becomes more contained. Those acquiring and managing talent will likely start to face different challenges as we head into the spring. Some of the hardest hit industries and locations could see a surge in hiring demand to refill roles that have been vacant since last April.

As confidence grows in the economy, employees that were considering a job change might become more open to a switch, especially in cities seeing rapid job expansion that have already passed their pre-pandemic employment levels. In those places, retention of top talent will become more of a challenge than it has been the past 12 months.

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