Lafayette, La., thinks of itself as the center of Cajun culture. There's certainly something hot about its economy. Lafayette is the No. 1 metro for job growth in the past 12 months. Total nonfarm employment has grown 8.5 percent, sparked by its thriving energy sector that saw the number of jobs rise 11.2 percent. That spurt has boosted job growth in other areas, particularly a 13.3 percent jump in professional and business services, which is the metro's largest sector. Health-care is a strong No. 2, although the metro also depends on tourism.
Since its energy boom, the area has seen house prices recover from the Great Recession and post new highs – nearly $198,000 this year, according to the Lafayette Board of Realtors, about $7,500 above the previous peak in 2007. Unemployment is at 4.2 percent. That's not as good as Bismarck's rate yet, it's but low in comparison to just about anywhere else.