The U.S. population grew by less than 1 percent in 2016. But over the last five years the population near 30 metro areas grew by more than 10 percent, and unemployment rates are way below the national average. In growing cities like Asheville, North Carolina, there are more jobs than people.
Doc Chey's Noodle House in downtown Asheville is closing its doors after 15 years, partly because of the difficulty of finding new employees.
"We used to, when we put an ad on Craigslist, we'd get 30 or 40 applications, and then the last few times we've done that the applications have just stopped coming in," the restaurant’s manager, Tyler Boeing, told WLOS News.
Boeing said he has not been able to re-fill positions as some employees leave for other industries.
"One of the things I think has a lot to do with it is the affordability of Asheville and how much that's changed in the last several years; that a typical line cook that's maybe making $12, $13, $14 an hour has a hard time making it in Asheville," said Boeing.
Vicki Meath is the executive director at Just Economics, an organization that helps businesses create a good starting point for a living wage.
"We certify employers as 'living wage certified,' if they're paying $13 an hour or $11.50 with employer-provided health insurance,” Meath said. "It's what it takes to get by with just barely enough just to meet those basic needs for a single person."
The mix of low wages and lack of affordable housing are a recipe for disaster in growing cities where the economy is booming, but stagnant wages in certain industries make livability impossible.
"It could be a big issue going forward is that, you know, we're building hotels and new restaurants are opening and then you don't have anyone to staff them because of that," Boeing said.
WLOS contributed to this story.