Our rankings continue the methodology developed last year, which emphasizes the robustness of a region's growth and allows the rankings to include all of the metropolitan statistical areas for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment data. They are derived from three-month rolling averages of Bureau of Labor Statistics "state and area" unadjusted employment data reported from January 1995 to September 2006.

The data reflect the North American Industry Classification System categories, including total nonfarm employment, manufacturing, financial services, business and professional services, educational and health services, information, retail and wholesale trade, transportation and utilities, leisure and hospitality, and government.

This year's rankings use four measures of growth to rank all areas for which full data sets were available from the past 10 years -- 393 regions in total. Unlike last year, this year's rankings can be directly compared to the 2005 rankings.

"Large" areas include those with a current nonfarm employment base of at least 450,000 jobs. "Midsize" areas range from 150,000 to 450,000 jobs. "Small" areas have as many as 150,000 jobs. Two communities in this year's top 20 in each size category grew enough that they are in different size categories: Honolulu, Hawaii, moved from the "Midsize" to "Large" category, and Savannah, Ga., moved from the "Small" to "Midsize" category.

The index is calculated from a normalized, weighted summary of: 1) recent growth trend: the current and prior year's employment growth rates, with the current year emphasized (two points); 2) midterm growth: the average annual 2001-2006 growth rate (two points); 3) long-term trend: the sum of the 2001-2006 and 1995-2000 employment growth rates multiplied by the ratio of the 1995-2000 growth rate over the 2001-2006 growth rate (two points); and 4) current year growth (one point).