County growth is often defined simply by population increases. But at NerdWallet, we employed a more methodical approach to determine U.S. county growth. We based our rankings on a number of factors, including employment, population and income. We sorted through the data to discover which are the fastest growing counties in the U.S.
We used the following three factors to determine the overall growth score of each county:
- Population: Population growth in the working-age population (16+)
- Employment: Growth in the percentage of employed residents (16+)
- Income: Growth in median income for workers
Check out our cost of living comparison tool for more information.
Fastest Growing Counties
1. Orleans Parish, Louisiana
Orleans Parish has seen significant population growth recently, with a 33.7% increase in the population age 16 and over between 2007 and 2011. The population has continued to grow since then, reaching nearly 370,000 in 2012. Employment saw an equally strong boost of 33% and the median income for workers grew 13.7% between 2007 and 2011. Major industries in Orleans include education, health care and social assistance, as well as arts, entertainment and recreation. The Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship at Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business is involved with academic, business and government projects that help promote local economic improvement.
2. Guadalupe County, Texas
Guadalupe County saw nearly equal growth (about 17%) among the three factors measured between 2007 and 2011. That kind of steady, consistent growth has helped Guadalupe County achieve national recognition for economic improvement. The county’s 2012 annual financial report noted the “increased demand for service at the county level” as being partly responsible for the rise in population. New energy and construction projects increased employment levels and helped keep unemployment below state and national levels. Residents employed in management, business, science and the arts take up the majority of the employed population.
3. Kendall County, Illinois
Kendall County’s population grew 17% between 2007 and 2011; but between the years 2000 and 2010, the population more than doubled, reaching 114,736 by the end of the decade. Employment grew steadily, seeing a double-digit rise between 2007 and 2011. The unemployment rate did reach nearly 10% earlier this year, but it has since tapered to under 9% (as of April 2013) and jobs, both public and private, are at historically high levels. Strong growth in the median income for workers has also helped offset the slower employment increases. Major industries for employment in Kendall County include retail trade, manufacturing, health care, and accommodation and food services. Waubonsee Community College, which has campuses in Kane and Kendall counties, is part of Kendall County’s Economic Development Alliance, and offers business training and advice through the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Waubonsee.
4. White County, Arkansas
White County saw only marginal population and employment growth between 2007 and 2011, but that was more than made up for by a nearly 30% increase in median income for workers in the same period. Retail trade, education and health services are the major industries in White County and all are expected to see continuous growth in the next decade. Arkansas State University – Beebe has contributed to workforce development and continuing education programs in White County.
5. Elmore County, Alabama
Like White County, Arkansas, Elmore County has not seen significant population growth recently (just 3.3% between 2007 and 2011). However, the county has had slightly better growth in the employment rate and significant growth in the median income for workers. Much of that can be attributed to a large increase in the number of new and ongoing manufacturing projects between the years 2004 to 2007. Education, manufacturing and retail are major industries for employment in Elmore County. Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, located in nearby Lee County, works with the Elmore County Economic Development Authority on economic and workforce development projects.
6. Fort Bend County, Texas
Fort Bend County has seen impressive population growth through the years. Between 2000 and 2012, the population jumped from around 350,000 to nearly 630,000. This swift rise has been credited to the wide variety of industries present. Education, health care, science, energy, administrative services, waste management and retail occupations make up close to 50% of the employed population. Fort Bend County has kept unemployment low (5.5% as of April 2013), and saw good growth in both the employment rate and median income for workers between 2007 and 2011
7. Loudoun County, Virginia
Loudoun County saw double-digit growth in population, employment rate and median income between 2007 and 2011. The county has an excellent unemployment rate of 3.6% (as of April 2013), and unemployment has been on a downward trend since January 2010. A whopping 56% of the workforce is employed in management, business, science and arts occupations. The county has strong tech and service industries, and the highest median household income of any county in the U.S.
8. Williamson County, Texas
Williamson is another county with a low unemployment rate (5.1% as of April 2013) to match its growth in employment and median income. The county’s population has grown rapidly since the 1980s, increasing by more than five times its original size between 1980 and 2012. Much of this can be attributed to the county’s transition into a more diverse work environment. Tech, service, health care, education, retail and manufacturing are all major industries. Texas State University’s Small Business Development Center has an office in Round Rock, Texas, and helps train and counsel local small businesses.
9. Monongalia County, West Virginia
Historically, Monongalia County has experienced somewhat slow population growth, averaging about 10% per decade from 1950 to 2010. Employment growth between 2007 and 2011 was 5.1%, but offsetting that was a 19% rise in the median income for workers in the same period. The county has a low unemployment rate of 4.2% (as of April 2013). The majority of the workforce is employed in business, science, arts, service or sales occupations. West Virginia University’s Extension Service has a Community, Economic and Workforce Development department dedicated to improving the local community through training, education and technical assistance.
10. Comanche County, Oklahoma
Comanche County experienced good growth in population and a small rise in median income between 2007 and 2011, but it saw great improvement in the employment rate in that period. The county’s unemployment rate has fluctuated since then, but reached its lowest rate in years this past April (5.5%). Employment is mostly grouped around government, retail services, education, health care, arts, recreation and food services.
|Rank||County/Parish||Population growth (population 16+, 2007-2011)||Growth in employment rate (percent population 16+ in labor force, 2007-2011)||Growth in median income (median earnings for workers adjusted for inflation, 2007-2011)||Overall growth score|
|1||Orleans Parish, Louisiana||33.7%||33.0%||13.7%||90.3|
|2||Guadalupe County, Texas||16.9%||17.6%||17.4%||78.8|
|3||Kendall County, Illinois||17.0%||12.6%||18.3%||76.6|
|4||White County, Arkansas||6.0%||3.8%||29.8%||75.3|
|5||Elmore County, Alabama||3.3%||9.6%||24.3%||74.2|
|6||Fort Bend County, Texas||16.0%||16.8%||10.5%||73.9|
|7||Loudoun County, Virginia||14.3%||10.7%||16.3%||73.5|
|8||Williamson County, Texas||15.7%||12.8%||13.4%||73.3|
|9||Monongalia County, West Virginia||11.2%||5.1%||19.0%||71.1|
|10||Comanche County, Oklahoma||9.5%||20.5%||5.8%||71.1|
|11||Parker County, Texas||8.2%||8.1%||16.7%||70.4|
|12||Canadian County, Oklahoma||13.3%||10.6%||11.4%||70.2|
|13||Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska||10.1%||-0.9%||22.8%||69.7|
|14||District of Columbia, District of Columbia||4.8%||5.9%||18.9%||69.4|
|15||Riley County, Kansas||5.4%||7.7%||16.6%||69.2|
|16||Faulkner County, Arkansas||9.9%||6.7%||15.1%||69.2|
|17||Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana||5.9%||18.8%||5.9%||69.1|
|18||Cass County, North Dakota||9.7%||13.8%||8.0%||68.8|
|19||Delaware County, Ohio||9.8%||6.0%||14.9%||68.6|
|20||Benton County, Washington||11.8%||6.8%||12.8%||68.4|
Data was obtained from the U.S. Census. Over 750 counties were included in this analysis.