Surprisingly, our list of the best small areas for jobs does not include many of the scenic small communities that tend to attract affluent emigrés from large cities. Instead most of our leading areas from the last 10 years tend to be those driven by the energy industry, led by No. 1 Williston, North Dakota. With 36,000 people, Williston has been at the center of the shale oil boom in the state, growing its job count 121% since 2007. Wages have soared 47% to over $68,000, well above the national median income of $52,000.
Two other hot spots in North Dakota’s Bakken shale boom: No. 3 Dickinson and No. 6 Minot.
Texas oil towns also figure prominently: No. 2 Midland and No. 4 Andrews.
In addition to our overall ranking, we looked for the small cities with the strongest growth in particular sectors. Newton, Iowa, which ranks second on our list of energy cities, pivoted after the economic disaster of a shuttered Maytag plant to become a hub for wind power manufacturing.