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From Workforce 2023 Guide

Workers Heading South and West

Florida leads the nation in talent attraction, per Lightcast. The highest-ranked location in Florida is Hillsborough County (Tampa), shown here.
Courtesy of Visit Tampa Bay/Chris Turner


lorida, Texas and Idaho lead the nation in attracting and keeping talent, according to a study just published by data organization Lightcast.

Accounting for factors such as education, overall job change, migration patterns, skilled job change, competitive effect, skilled job openings, and IRS tax return migration data, Lightcast concluded that the best locations for talent attraction and retention are in the Sunbelt and Mountain West.

Utah, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina round out the top 10. Among large counties, Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix), ranks first, followed by Collin County, Texas (Plano), and Travis County, Texas (Austin). Four of the top 10 counties are in Texas, and two are in Florida: Hillsborough (Tampa) and Polk (Lakeland-Winter Haven).

While the study released on October 25 revealed a number of changes in the rankings near the top, a consistent best performer is Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. It has ranked No. 1 for talent attraction in the nation for five of the last seven years.

“In 2016, when we started this ranking, talent attraction was emerging but was still on the fringes as an economic development priority. No longer,” said Josh Wright, executive vice president of economic and workforce development at Lightcast, based in Moscow, Idaho, and Boston. “Workers are so hard to find that communities are getting more creative in attempts to attract and develop talent. It’s more paramount than ever for cities, states and companies to understand the data and geographic landscape for talent.”

If one trend held true this year, it was the dominance of the Sunbelt. Seven of the top 10 small counties (population between 5,000 and 99,000) are in the South, as are seven of the top 10 micro counties (population under 5,000).

Drew Repp, senior labor market analyst at Lightcast, says that while a lot of workforce location habits changed during the pandemic, many did not. “My takeaway from the study this year is that what was working before the pandemic is still working after it,” he says. “There was not a lot of change after COVID-19. States that were starting to excel at talent attraction pre-pandemic are still excelling. Our conclusion: talent is needed in good times and bad.”

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


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