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2022 Talent Attraction Scorecard

Top Spots and Tips for Talent Development

Our highly anticipated 2023 Talent Attraction Scorecard is coming later this fall – stay tuned for all the exciting details!

Maintaining the Talent Pipeline

For the last few decades, talent and workforce have been top of mind for communities. Where are businesses going to find the talent with the skills they need? To help communities understand how they were doing at attracting and developing talent to help meet this need, Lightcast launched the Talent Attraction Scorecard. Now in its seventh year, the Scorecard ranks counties based on education, overall job change, migration, skilled job change, competitive effect (jobs created above or below what is expected), and skilled job openings.

This year’s rankings capture the tumultuous COVID years, with education and jobs data from 2017–2021. Rankings also capture the first wave of pandemic migration, with IRS migration data from 2016–2020. The Scorecard is divided into Large Counties (100,000+ population), Small Counties (5,000–99,999 population), and Micro Counties (less than 5,000 population). New this year are state rankings. 

As communities now grapple with a demographic drought, worker shortage, supply chain woes, and a looming recession, creating and maintaining a healthy talent pipeline will be vital. Throughout this report are Talent Tips to help communities do just that.

Also, be sure to explore the interactive visuals. Many include multiple charts, which take a moment to populate, but can be advanced using the arrows in the upper right corner.

Housing—the new economic development

Housing has quickly risen to the levels of workforce as a top concern for economic developers. An International Economic Development Council survey in March 2022 found that fully 60% of respondents reported their economic development organization was working to increase residential housing inventory. Whether trying to retain or attract talent, having available and affordable housing is a must.

Affordability: Occupational wage data and projected job growth are a must to know who can afford housing, and who can’t.

Creativity: Think outside the box. Bryan, TX is using pattern zoning, Baltimore employer-assisted housing through their Live Near Your Work program, and Genesee County in Michigan is using a land bank.

Longevity: Remember it’s both the short and long game. Housing is needed now, but also pay attention to long-term trends like birth rates and immigration, and what they mean for housing stock.

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Look within as much as out for talent

When it comes to talent, both a domestic and global demographic drought is forcing communities to do more with less. And while attracting talent has its benefits, increasingly communities will be competing for slices of a smaller pie. Before looking outside your region, consider ways to engage more local talent.

According to a study by the US Census Bureau and Harvard University, younger people are staying closer to home.

Missing workers, those who are out of the labor force but want a job, are abundant—an estimated 5.7M in the US.

How can you unearth unexpected talent in your region? Identify aligned transitions—when an individual uses existing knowledge, skills, and abilities in a different way or in a different environment to fill an in-demand job.
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2022 Large County Trends

Even Bigger Rankings in Texas
Even Bigger Rankings in Texas

Somehow Texas improved from last year, going from three counties in the top 10 in 2021 to four this year. Travis County (Austin) had a few tough years, ranking near the bottom in 2018 and 2019, but has since rebounded.

North Carolina Up and Coming
North Carolina Up and Coming

North Carolina has three counties in the top 20 with No. 12 Wake, No. 15 Mecklenburg, and No. 18 Durham. Wake County is home to NC State University, and Durham County to Duke University, and the city of Charlotte anchors Mecklenburg County. Behind them, North Carolina has five more counties in the top 100, all on a steady climb from at or near triple-digit ranks. At a state level, North Carolina ranks No. 6.

Migration Winners
Migration Winners

Texas and Florida continue to win in migration. Out of the top 10 counties for total net inflow of tax return filers in 2020, three were in each of Texas and Florida. Maricopa County was the overall winner, with more than 20,000 new filers. Clark County, NV, Riverside County, CA and Pinal County, AZ also made the top 10.

Time to go full-fledged on skills

Talent is in short supply (see Talent Tip above), meaning communities need to be efficient in matching talent to jobs. Skills are the best way to do this. Economic and workforce development organizations that help businesses and jobseekers in the transition to a skills-based economy will be a step ahead in the talent competition.

USA Today recently reported that 45% of businesses are taking a “skills first” approach to hiring.

Communities such as Baton Rouge, LA are using skills data as the foundation for their jobseeker-to-business connection tools.

The transition to a skills-based economy includes learning providers. It impacts program decisions, marketing outreach, and employer engagement.

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Investment needed in changing industries

The importance of talent isn’t just because of a tight labor market or a global demographic drought. It’s also because major industry shifts are constantly requiring new or updated skills. Communities and programs that make investment in their talent the top priority will have a clear advantage moving forward.

In Michigan, EV Jobs Academy is identifying electric vehicle and mobility-related occupational skill needs while developing and scaling credentialing programs.

Chattanooga is preparing existing talent for careers in advanced manufacturing, health science, IT, and others through its Future Ready program that offers high schoolers careers, theme-based teaching, and learning.

Understanding where new fields such as the green economy are heading—the jobs, skills required, and career transitions—is a must.

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2022 Small County Trends

Smaller, Small Counties Winning
Smaller, Small Counties Winning

The average population of the top 10 small counties is 34,569. None of the top 10 are over 80,000 residents and only three are over 50,000.

Rural's Rise
Rural’s Rise

Out of 2,218 small counties, only 845 saw a negative net migration in 2020. It’s only one year, but with rural areas having faced a headwind since the Great Recession, it’s a positive sign to see so many attracting new residents.

Southeast Job Growth
Job Growth in the Southeast, Utah, and Texas

When it comes to job growth over the last five years, counties in Southeast states performed well. The first six counties in percentage growth in jobs are all Southeastern states (KY, NC, MS, WV, FL, and GA). In the top 20, Texas placed four counties and Utah three.

Embrace your niche

If you are going to get into the talent attraction competition, know that both talent and businesses are doing a lot of reevaluating in the post-Covid years. And in both cases what they are looking for is varied. Communities don’t need to try and be something they aren’t, because chances are someone is looking for what they already are.

Don’t try to create a comparative advantage, highlight the one you already have, such as an industry concentration that allows for career growth and transitions.
Shift share measures the amount of job creation above or below what would be expected in a region. High shift share in an industry or occupation? That could indicate an “it” factor worth highlighting.

Bob Ross of the Greater Topeka Partnership recently said at the IEDC Annual Conference that “Kansas had been social distancing for years.” That’s a community that knows its niche and isn’t trying to “reinvent” itself but is leaning into its existing advantage.


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Talent Needed in Good Times and Bad

This year’s rankings reveal how talent not only carries a community in years of plenty but also helps them through years of famine, such as the COVID years of 2020 and 2021. 

Additionally, creating an environment where that talent can be developed and flourish is increasingly moving out of traditional workforce realms. Housing is now a prerequisite to retaining and developing talent. Employers and workforce programs looking beyond a worker’s formal education and past job titles to the skills they have is needed to identify much-needed talent and career pathways. Quickly evolving industries such as the electric vehicle and green economy sectors mean regions need to monitor industry data closely to align their workforce with new opportunities.

With LFPR lackluster across the nation and decades of low birth rates causing a shortage of available workers, regions will increasingly need to make not just training their workforce a priority, but engaging it. This means actively pursuing historically overlooked populations such as missing or hidden workers. Or in addition—or perhaps even instead of—talent attraction campaigns, talent retention campaigns aimed at keeping high school and college graduates in the local area.


The following six metrics were equally weighted to create a z-score index. Based on population, counties were broken into categories of large (100,000+), small (5,000–99,999), and micro (less than 4,999) and were then ranked based on their z-score. All data (except net migration) is from Lightcast’s 2022.3 data set for wage-and-salary employees. Net migration data is from the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Statistics of Income Division (SOI).

Net Migration
Net Migration

Net migration uses IRS data collected between 2016 and 2020 to measure the net new residents that came to a county from inside or outside its state.

Overall job growth
Overall Job Growth

Overall job growth is the 2017–2021 percent job change for all wage-and-salary Employees.

Educational Attainment
Educational Attainment

Educational attainment is the 2017–2021 percent change for adults over 25 with at least an associate degree.

Regional Competitiveness
Regional Competitiveness

Regional competitiveness is the 2017–2021 competitive effect for skilled occupations using shift share. Competitive effect explains how much of job change is due to a region’s unique competitive advantages. This explains which counties are gaining (or losing) a greater share of skilled labor.

Annual Openings per Capita
Annual Openings per Capita

Annual openings per capita are the sum of 2017–2021 new jobs and replacement jobs (i.e., openings due to attrition) per 1,000 residents. Some regions might not create a flood of new jobs, but because of the attrition of its workforce through retirements, etc., replacement job needs could be high.

Skilled job growth
Skilled Job Growth

Skilled job growth looks at 2017–2021 percent growth for occupations that fall into one or more of the following three categories: those that typically require 1) a postsecondary certificate or above, 2) long-term on-the-job training, an apprenticeship, or residency/internship, or 3) five years or more of work experience in a related occupation. This allows us to see growth of jobs in occupations that require formal education (from a certificate to an advanced degree) and those in which experience or on-the- job training is preferred by employers. All education levels are reported at the national level by the BLS.

Talent Attraction Scorecard Here to Help

Need Help Developing Your Talent Pipeline?

2022 Talent Attraction Scorecard

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Drew Repp

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Data Assembly

Jade Rohloff

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Design & Data Visualization

Daniel Botkin & Hannah Grieser