The difficulty in studying localities and comparing them with the national picture is largely because of the lack of comparable data. At the Labor Department, productivity is measured by comparing labor input (hours worked) to a sector’s output (in dollars). At the regional scale, Parilla and Muro use metro-level output from Moody’s Analytics and employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate local productivity. In doing so, they observe massive variations across the U.S. economy, from an average of $299,000 per worker a year in Midland, Texas to $38,000 per worker in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
According to their research, the largest U.S. cities tend to be the most productive areas, along with areas in the energy belt that specialize in oil, gas, and mining. The low end of the productivity spectrum consisted of smaller cities in the southern and southwestern U.S. These findings aren’t that surprising given that cities and boom towns tend to be more productive.