Thursday, April 18, 2013
Jobs keep creeping out of downtowns
Story originally appeared on USA Today.
The recession put the brakes on job growth but did nothing to reverse a decades-long trend: job sprawl.
Despite the economic slump, the share of metropolitan areas' jobs farther from downtowns increased from 2000 to 2010, according to Brookings Institution research out Thursday. The share of jobs located in or near a downtown declined in 91 of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas.
"Job sprawl continued steadily," says Elizabeth Kneebone, author of the report and fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.
The number of jobs more than 10 miles and up to 35 miles from city centers increased 1.2% the last decade. The number of jobs 10 miles away or less fell.
In 2010, nearly twice the share of jobs (43%) were at least 10 miles from downtown as the share within 3 miles (23%). The share of jobs 10 to 35 miles from the city center grew in 85 of the metro areas.
But there are signs of a counter-current. As young professionals flock to city centers, companies that want the best and brightest are starting to follow, says Joe Cortright, senior research adviser for CEOs for Cities, a national organization of urban leaders. "Suburban office locations are not as attractive as they once were," he says. "A big factor is gas prices."
He points to Swiss financial giant UBS, which just moved its trading floor from suburban Connecticut to Manhattan to be closer to where younger workers live. Biotech company Biogen Idec is moving from its suburban campus in Weston, Mass., to Cambridge, just outside Boston. In metro Atlanta, game developer CCP Games moved from a suburban office park in Stone Mountain, Ga., to downtown Decatur, a more urban area with transit access. Pinterest moved from Palo Alto, Calif., to San Francisco.
"I don't expect it to go back to the way it was," Cortright says.
The downturn couldn't reverse job sprawl, and "Without policy action, there is no reason to believe it would reverse," Kneebone says.
Highs and lows in job sprawl:
The industrial Midwest leads the way, with Detroit (77% of jobs in far-flung suburbs) and Chicago (67.4%).
Lowest job sprawl among large metros: San Jose, where almost two-thirds of jobs are within 3 miles of downtown.
Among smaller metros, Memphis, Knoxville, Tenn., and Worcester, Mass., have the highest share of jobs farther out. Bridgeport, Conn., is the most centralized, followed by Honolulu and Allentown, Pa.
The Phoenix metro had the largest jump (10.8%) in the share of jobs on the outer edge.
Suburbanization doesn't have to equal sprawl, Kneebone says. Many areas, such as the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., are becoming dense urban job centers near housing and rail lines. More than three-fourths of jobs in metro Los Angeles are in high-density areas outside the city center.