Nov. 19, 2004--The Fort Myers-Cape Coral metropolitan area in Florida led the nation in job growth in 2003, according to a new study by the Milken Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif. In their 2004 Best Performing Cities index, the institute studied 200 major metropolitan areas across the country as well as 118 smaller communities to find where the most jobs were created.

Missoula, Mont., ranked first on the small communities list, while Florida as a whole placed seven major metropolitan areas in the top 20. The study found that the area of McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, created the most jobs over the past five years.

The study credited low interest rates, strong home construction numbers, and a knowledge-based economy for creating new domestic jobs and keeping others from moving offshore. It also found that the top winners all shared a common strength in the services they offer like tourism and hospitality services.

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