Statistical Areas

A local economy is essentially a geographic area in which a preponderance of the people live and work, earn and spend. The area is typically defined by the commuting patterns of the resident population.


POLICOM specializes in analyzing local economies and uses Metropolitan and Micropolitan Areas along with individual counties as the building blocks for the study.


Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) have at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.  They must have at minimum one county and most of the time include several counties.


As of January 1, 2018 there are 383 Metropolitan Statistical Areas comprised of 1,169 of the 3,142 counties in the United States.


Micropolitan Statistical Areas (MICRO) are smaller areas. A Micropolitan area must have an urbanized area of at least 10,000 population but less than 50,000 population. It must be at least one county.


As of January 1, 2018 there are 550 Micropolitan Statistical Areas comprised of 656 of the 3,142 counties in the United States.


Annually POLICOM ranks all Metropolitan and Micropolitan areas for "economic strength" which is the long-term tendency for an area to consistently grow in both size and quality.


POLICOM then studies the characteristics of the strong and weak economies to better advise communities on what they need to do to improve.



To download the methodology and the 2017 Economic Strength Rankings for all areas, click here.


To view the rankings for the Metropolitan Areas, click here.


To view the rankings for the Micropolitan areas, click here.


To view the geographic definitions for all areas, click here.


The following chart provides the list of the ten strongest and ten weakest Metropolitan and Micropolitan Areas for 2017.

382 Metropolitan Areas     551 Micropolitan Areas  
2017 Ten Strongest Metropolitan Areas   2017 Ten Strongest Micropolitan Areas
1 Austin-Round Rock, TX (MSA)   1 Dickinson, ND (McrSA)
2 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA (MSA)   2 Williston, ND (McrSA)
3 Napa, CA (MSA)   3 Claremont-Lebanon, NH-VT (McrSA)
4 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX (MSA)   4 Carlsbad-Artesia, NM (McrSA)
5 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA (MSA)   5 Minot, ND (McrSA)
6 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO (MSA)   6 Laconia, NH (McrSA)
7 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA (MSA)   7 Bozeman, MT (McrSA)
8 Fargo, ND-MN (MSA)   8 Barre, VT (McrSA)
9 Bismarck, ND (MSA)   9 Summit Park, UT (McrSA)
10 Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro, TN (MSA)   10 Lewisburg, PA (McrSA)
2017 Ten Weakest Metropolitan Areas   2017 Ten Weakest Micropolitan Areas
373 Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC (MSA)   542 Middlesborough, KY (McrSA)
374 Muncie, IN (MSA)   543 Clarksdale, MS (McrSA)
375 Sebring, FL (MSA)   544 Forrest City, AR (McrSA)
376 Bay City, MI (MSA)   545 Helena-West Helena, AR (McrSA)
377 Albany, GA (MSA)   546 Indianola, MS (McrSA)
378 Danville, IL (MSA)   547 Bainbridge, GA (McrSA)
379 Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, AL (MSA)   548 Espanola, NM (McrSA)
380 Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH (MSA)   549 Valley, AL (McrSA)
381 Rocky Mount, NC (MSA)   550 Las Vegas, NM (McrSA)
382 Beckley, WV (MSA)   551 Fitzgerald, GA (McrSA)