Communities across Texas are contributing to economic growth. Although the state’s largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are where the lion’s share of economic activity occurs, most of the smaller population centers are also performing well. For example, the Midland, Amarillo, Lubbock and Odessa MSAs have been ranking among the lowest unemployment rates in the state. My latest forecast calls for notable growth in each of these important regional centers of business activity.

For comparison, we are projecting overall Texas employment growth at a 2.02 percent annual rate through 2023. The seven largest metropolitan areas (Austin-Round Rock, Dallas-Plano-Irving, Fort Worth-Arlington, El Paso, Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, and San Antonio-New Braunfels) are expected to gain almost 1.1 million net new jobs through the next five years. That’s 79 percent of the total. Five of the seven are likely to exceed the statewide pace, though Fort Worth-Arlington and El Paso lag the state rate slightly.

Even so, small and mid-sized metropolitan areas such as Waco are important centers for the energy sector, higher education, health care, agriculture and a variety of other industries. The state’s 19 other MSAs are likely to account for almost 15 percent of total job gains in Texas through 2023, with the remaining 6 percent or so added in rural areas.

The Midland and Odessa MSAs are projected to experience particularly strong employment growth rates during the next five years, primarily as a result of the globally significant increases in oil and gas production and the corresponding effects on many channels of business activity. The Tyler (2.08 percent) and Brownsville-Harlingen (2.07 percent) MSAs are also expected to see job growth which outpaces the state.

Other MSAs are likely to see economic expansion ranging from 1.70 percent to 1.96 percent per year. Near the upper end of the range are Laredo (1.96 percent), Sherman-Denison (1.92) and Lubbock (1.90). More moderate employment gains are projected in Corpus Christi (1.88 percent), College Station-Bryan (1.86), Abilene (1.84), Texarkana (1.82), Waco (1.82), Amarillo (1.80), Longview (1.80) and Victoria (1.80). Expected rates of employment growth in San Angelo (1.76 percent), Wichita Falls (1.74), Killeen-Temple (1.71) and Beaumont-Port Arthur (1.70) metropolitan areas are slightly lower.

Even in the smallest of the MSAs, thousands of jobs are likely to be added . In some areas, such as the Permian Basin, employment growth is occurring at rates that are among the most rapid in the country. Over time, Texas will continue to see economic activity in the largest cities. However, there are also opportunities for those who live (or wish to live) in places with a slower pace, less traffic and a wealth of other amenities available .

Ray Perryman is a Texas economist and president and CEO of The Perryman Group, an economic research and analysis firm based in Waco.