But job markets aren't the only determining factor. Population grows when people have babies or immigrate to the U.S., and Texas has both a high birth rate and high population of immigrants, both of which may help boost its cities toward the top of the list.
The census data also say something about where people want to live. While several of those fast-growing cities are suburbs, major cities in Texas aren't far behind, with Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio all growing at a nearly 2 percent rate. Indeed, the large number of small cities on the fast-growing list belie a broader trend of bustling urban centers, says one economist.
"Cities have become relatively more attractive than they had been over the last generation," says Diffley.
Declining crime rates in many big cities, plus a generation of echo boomers who prefer big-city living and either can't afford or don't want to buy homes in the burbs, have helped to fuel a boom in big-city populations, says Diffley.
The Census data provide several examples of large cities whose growth rates are surpassing many of their surrounding areas. Charlotte, N.C., is growing at a 2.5 percent clip, far outpacing nearby Gastonia and Rock Hill. Likewise, Atlanta, Ga., is growing at 2.8 percent, beating suburb Sandy Spring and on par with nearby Roswell. Even Austin, Texas, with its multiple fast-growing suburbs, is growing at a quick 3.1 percent clip.
This fast growth in large cities is a relatively new phenomenon, says Diffley, but it could be short-lived. Millennials may be happy living downtown for now, but as they marry, have children, and seek out those multi-bedroom suburban houses, they may change their tune, moving fast growth back to the suburbs.