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Florida cities dominate list of nation's best job creators

Florida dominates the Milken Institute's Best Performing Cities index, which charts U.S. metropolitan areas for job creation and economic performance in 2005, scoring five of the top six and 12 of the top 30.

Released Wednesday, the index's top three rankings went to metropolitan areas in Florida, led by Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville and followed by the 2004 survey's top scorer, Cape Coral-Fort Myers and Naples-Marco Island.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area ranked 25th, down from 12th in 2004. Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice was 24th, down from sixth.

Florida "is creating jobs at a prodigious rate," said Ross DeVol, director of regional economics at the Santa Monica, Calif., think tank and the report's lead author. "It has all the makings of a job-creating machine: good weather, low costs, a growing population, a strong tourism industry and little heavy manufacturing."

The index ranks metro areas on their ability to create and sustain jobs and includes five-year and one-year measurements of employment and salary growth.

Not surprisingly, the top rankings are dominated by metro areas in the Sun Belt, with the Midwest lagging, the report said. The best areas have similar characteristics: strong and growing service sectors, robust recoveries in tourism, growing populations and an increasing number of retirees, the institute said.

The biggest movers in the rankings from 2004 were Bremerton-Silverdale, Wash., which rose 104 places to 18th, and Newark-Union, N.J.-Pa., which dropped 101 spots to 140th, the institute said.

TOP JOB-CREATING CITIES

Here are the top 10 U.S. metro areas for job creation, with last year's rankings in parentheses:

1. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville (31)

2. Cape Coral-Fort Myers (1)

3. Naples-Marco Island (15)

4. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas (18)

5. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach (5)

6. Orlando-Kissimmee (29)

7. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va. (11)

8. Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark.-Mo. (7)

9. Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach (9)

10. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (8)

25. TAMPA-ST. PETERSBURG-CLEARWATER (12)

- LOS ANGELES TIMES

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