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Why So Many of Colorado's 91,000 New Residents Have Moved to Denver

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A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that Colorado is the seventh-fastest-growing state in the country, having added 91,726 new residents (or almost 10,000 per month) between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, to bring the overall population to 5,540,545. And as evidenced by traffic on I-25 and plenty of other observable factors, many, if not most, of these arrivals have settled into the Denver metro area.

Why the continuing boom? An analysis from WalletHub provides answers.

The site's data shows that Denver is among the ten fastest-growing big cities in the country, with "big" defined as metropolitan areas with a population of more than 300,000. Moreover, Aurora is hot on Denver's heels in the overall rankings, demonstrating that the expansion isn't stopping at the Mile High City's limits.

We've highlighted the top ten cities below — but WalletHub also provided Westword with Denver's results in the fourteen categories used to determine overall scores for the 515 cities analyzed. The groupings include a breakdown of population growth and demonstrate a big decrease in unemployment and the poverty rate over a period that, in most cases, spans from 2009 to 2015.

The photo-illustrated categories are below. Then, on page two of this post, WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez drills into the data in a Q&A with Westword that precedes the overall big-city top ten and explanations about methodology. Click to access the original post.

Denver Population Growth: 1.89 percent
Rank: 89

Denver Working-Age Population Growth: 2.13 percent
Rank: 90

Denver College-Educated Population Growth: 2.28 percent
Rank: 173

Denver Median Household Income Growth: 3.85 percent
Rank: 60

Denver Unemployment Rate Decrease: -18.72 percent
Rank: 1

Denver Poverty Rate Decrease: -2.78 percent
Rank: 37

Denver Job Growth: 2.78 percent
Rank: 75

Denver Increase in Ratio of Full-Time to Part-Time Jobs: 3.99 percent
Rank: 183

Denver Growth in Regional GDP per Capita: 0.71 percent
Rank: 246

Denver Increase in Number of Businesses: 1.12 percent
Rank: 124

Denver Increase in Number of Startups: 4.23 percent
Rank: 284

Denver Increase in Venture Capital Investment Amount: 26.5 percent
Rank: 292

Denver Median House Price Growth: 4.48 percent
Rank: 41

Denver Foreclosure Rate Decrease: -0.34 percent
Rank: 171

Overall Score: 52.63

Overall Rank: 56

Overall City Size Rank: 4

Continue for more details about the Denver growth data from WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez and the survey's overall big city rankings.

Here's our Q&A with WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez.

Westword: There's quite a disparity from Denver ranking fourth among major cities and 56th among cities overall. How do you explain the difference?

Jill Gonzalez: It's not quite a 'disparity.' When compared among the 64 large cities we analyzed, it's actually the fourth-best score. However, when compared against all 515 cities we looked at, since there are many more small- and medium-sized cities in the country, it's ranked 56th.

Denver ranks 89th in population growth as a whole. How many residents has Denver added? Over what period of time? Has Denver's population grown steadily in recent years, or has there been a large recent bump? To what do you attribute Denver's population growth?

We used percentages for all the metrics we analyzed in order to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison among cities. To determine the population growth, we compared 2015 to 2009 Census data, during which time Denver's population grew by about 2 percent. As this was strictly a quantitative analysis, we cannot speak to the 'why' behind that.

Denver ranks 183rd in the increase of full-time jobs. Does that mean a large number of Denverites are only employed part-time or they have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet? What does this portend when it comes to sustaining long-term growth?

It means that between 2009 and 2015, the ratio of full-time to part-time employees has increased by almost 4 percent. Thus, the full-time employment has increased in Denver over that five-year period.

Denver's highest ranking by far is first in the decrease of the unemployment rate. Do part-time jobs contribute to this low number? How many hours per week must someone work for them to count against the unemployment rate?

The data for the Unemployment Rate Decrease key metric was obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Denver ranked first for this specific key metric, with the highest decrease in unemployment when comparing 2015 data to 2011. Part-time employees do not count when looking at the unemployment rate, according to BLS. Please find more details here.

Denver is ranked 41st in median house price growth, yet prices for housing in Denver have been rising steadily of late. Does this ranking suggest that even though prices are going up for housing in these parts, the rate isn't actually that egregious in comparison with other cities? What cities ranked lower than Denver when it comes to median house price growth?

It's actually quite a good ranking, as Denver ranked 41st out of the 515 cities we analyzed. Median house prices in Denver have increased by 4.48 percent (2015 vs. 2009). For this specific key metric, Newport Beach, California, ranked first, with an almost 12 percent increase. Out of the large cities we analyzed, Charlotte, North Carolina, ranked last, with a growth of just 1.31 percent.

What are the largest factors in Denver placing fourth in growth among major cities? And what must Denver do to sustain that growth and move up that list?

Denver offers a great economic environment, with low unemployment rates and a steady increase in income. Focusing on industry variety as well as an affordable housing market will help Denver do even better in future rankings.

Below, see the ten fastest-growing big cities according to WalletHub.

Number 10: Seattle, WA
Score: 49.51

Number 9: Riverside, CA
Score: 49.58

Number 8: San Jose, CA
Score: 50.36

Number 7: Fort Worth, TX
Score: 51.67

Number 6: Corpus Christi, TX
Score: 51.80

Number 5: Aurora, CO
Score: 52.46

Number 4: Denver, CO
Score: 52.63

Number 3: Charlotte, NC
Score: 53.36

Number 2: Bakersfield, CA
Score: 53.79

Number 1: Austin, TX
Score: 56.21

Methodology

In order to identify the most rapidly growing local economies, WalletHub’s analysts compared 515 cities of varying population sizes based on two key dimensions, including “Sociodemographics” and “Jobs & Economy.”

We evaluated these categories using 14 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing optimal economic growth. For each metric, we analyzed data spanning from 2009 to 2015 with the exception of “Unemployment Rate Decrease”, “Job Growth” (from 2011 to 2015) and "Increase in Venture Capital Investment Amount" (from 2010 to 2015).

We then calculated overall scores for each city using the weighted average across all metrics, which we then used to construct our final ranking.

In determining our sample, we considered only the “city proper” in each case and excluded cities in the surrounding metro area. We then categorized each city according to the following population sizes:

• Large cities: More than 300,000 people
• Midsize cities: 100,000 to 300,000 people
• Small cities: Fewer than 100,000 people

Sociodemographics — Total Points: 50

• Population Growth: Double Weight (~25.00 points)
• Working-Age Population Growth: Full Weight (~12.50 points)
Note: “Working-Age Population” includes individuals aged 16 to 64.
• College-Educated Population Growth: Full Weight (~12.50 points)
Note: “College-Educated Population” includes individuals with at least an associate’s degree.

Jobs & Economy — Total Points: 50

• Median Household Income Growth: Full Weight (~4.76 points)
• Unemployment Rate Decrease: Full Weight (~4.76 points)
• Poverty Rate Decrease: Full Weight (~4.76 points)
• Job Growth: Full Weight (~4.76 points)
• Increase in Ratio of Full-Time to Part-Time Jobs: Half Weight (~2.38 points)
• Growth in Regional GDP per Capita: Full Weight (~4.76 points)
• Increase in Number of Businesses: Full Weight (~4.76 points)
• Increase in Number of Startups: Full Weight (~4.76 points)
• Increase in Venture Capital Investment Amount: Full Weight (~4.76 points)
• Median House Price Growth: Full Weight (~4.76 points)
• Foreclosure Rate Decrease: Full Weight (~4.76 points)


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