The Best Cities to Find a Job
Sometimes the grass truly is greener on the other side of the fence. The financial turmoil of the past few years certainly lends credence to that notion, as the Great Recession’s disproportionate impact on local economies spawned a 24-point unemployment rate difference between the most and least bountiful major U.S. cities.
More than 100 million people have moved within the past five years, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and 48% of unemployed individuals have picked up their roots in search of a job over that timeframe. This societal mobility stands to be a major asset for job seekers as the economy improves. In fact, 2014 is expected to be a strong year for hiring, with 27% of employers planning to hire, according to the National Association for Business Economics, and a projected 8% bump in the number of recent college graduates who land jobs, per the National Association for Colleges and Employers.
As an advocate for the health of consumers’ wallets, WalletHub decided to analyze the relative employment opportunities in the 60 largest U.S. cities in order to give people a sense of where on the map the strongest job markets and greatest prospects for long-term financial security can be found. We did so using 13 unique metrics, ranging from job openings per capita and industry variety to cost of living and the prevalence of employer-provided health benefits.
You can read more about the metrics and underlying data used to conduct this report as well as our ultimate findings below.
|1||Fort Worth, TX||21||Tulsa, OK||41||Chicago, IL|
|2||Washington, DC||22||Omaha, NE||42||El Paso, TX|
|3||Tampa, FL||23||San Antonio, TX||43||Philadelphia, PA|
|4||Arlington, TX||24||Santa Ana, CA||44||Portland, OR|
|5||Dallas, TX||25||Nashville, TN||45||Indianapolis, IN|
|6||Austin, TX||26||Columbus, OH||46||Sacramento, CA|
|7||Seattle, WA||27||Boston, MA||47||Virginia Beach, VA|
|8||Denver, CO||28||Wichita, KS||48||Albuquerque, NM|
|9||Mesa, AZ||29||New Orleans, LA||49||Anaheim, CA|
|10||Houston, TX||30||Miami, FL||50||Cleveland, OH|
|11||Raleigh, NC||31||Atlanta, GA||51||St. Louis, MO|
|12||Corpus Christi, TX||32||Louisville, KY||52||Oakland, CA|
|13||Aurora, CO||33||Bakersfield, CA||53||Long Beach, CA|
|14||Phoenix, AZ||34||Memphis, TN||54||Tucson, AZ|
|15||San Jose, CA||35||Jacksonville, FL||55||Milwaukee, WI|
|16||San Francisco, CA||36||San Diego, CA||56||Riverside, CA|
|17||Las Vegas, NV||37||Baltimore, MD||57||Honolulu, HI|
|18||Charlotte, NC||38||Detroit, MI||58||Fresno, CA|
|19||Minneapolis, MN||39||Oklahoma City, OK||59||New York, NY|
|20||Kansas City, MO||40||Colorado Springs, CO||60||Los Angeles, CA|
Commentary for Select Cities
Fort Worth, TX
The leader of the Long Star State’s impressive pack of bountiful job markets, Fort Worth boasts the nation’s 5th fastest-falling unemployment rate, the 4th largest proportion of full-time employees, and the 2nd most affordable housing. Such dynamics, combined with the lack of either a state or local income tax for which Texas is renowned, are enough to make up for middle-of-the pack rankings when it comes to industry variety, health care coverage and the percentage of the workforce living below the poverty line.
Fort Worth’s largest industry sectors are: 1) Retail Trade; 2) Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and 3) Health Care.
The Nation Capital’s high ranking among the Best Cities for Job Seekers is sure to irk those who feel the federal government has become far too large (did someone say Texas!). D.C. ranks 7th nationally in terms of annual labor force growth, 6th for job openings per capita, 4th in terms of both health care coverage and percentage of the workforce below the poverty line, 3rd for percentage of the work force employed full time and 2nd when it comes to median starting salary
However, Washington is about much more than politics and government jobs. The area also has a major presence in the banking, professional services, and tourism and hospitality industries. In fact, Washington actually boasts the 3rd most industry variety in the country, making it a land of promise for job seekers regardless of chosen field.
Like other major tourism destinations, Tampa was hit hard during the Great Recession, shedding 140,700 jobs at the downturn’s nadir and seeing real estate prices drop nearly 20%. The area’s economy is nearly back to its pre-recession size, however, and only 11 major U.S. cities have fewer employees per capita living below the poverty line. Tampa’s workforce is also the 8th best paid, when cost of living is taken into account, and also benefits from the 9th most diverse industrial mix.
The Texas Rangers, who call Arlington’s Global Life Stadium home, aren’t the only group that’s been hot in recent years. The city’s workforce has been heating up as well, and it now boasts the 2nd most job openings per capita in the country. The country’s 4th most affordable housing market and nonexistent tax burden also help make top-tier starting salaries go as far as possible in Arlington. Such dynamics seem to foretell significant job seeker interest in the area, at least among those who can tolerate average summer temperatures of 96°F.
It’s not often that Dallas – where bigger is better with everything from the headwear to the football stadium – ranks third in the pantheon of anything, let along the hierarchy of cities within its own state. But Dallas’ employment landscape is the envy of all but four major cities in the U.S., and considering the economic rollercoaster that the past few years have taken us on, that’s certainly something to be proud of.
Dallas companies pay the country’s 7th highest starting salaries, are the second most reliant on full-time employees, and can use the nation’s 9th most affordable housing market as a major selling point to attract top talent.
It’s not often the Texas capital plays fourth fiddle in the Lone Star State, but such is the current job market hierarchy, with Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas all ranking higher in terms of the relative opportunity before the average job seeker. All four cities are in the top 10 nationally, however, and Austin’s sixth overall ranking is driven by the city’s affordable real estate, upper-tier job growth and the absence of a non-federal income tax burden.
Seattle has been busy of late, with the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl, cannabis dispensaries opening their doors, and strong job market growth. Perhaps there is a connection. What we can say for sure, however, is that Seattle job market ranks in the top 10 nationally due in large part to the area’s high starting salaries, the fact that a large percentage of the workforce has private health insurance, and a rapidly decreasing unemployment rate.
While the fact that Denver’s job market ranks one spot behind Seattle’s is sure to ruffle some feathers in the Mile High City considering the Broncos’ recent Super Bowl loss to the Seahawks, having a top 10 employment landscape is a heck of a consolation prize in this unique economic environment. Denver’s job market ranks eighth overall among major U.S. cities due in large part to a fast-falling unemployment rate, high number of job openings per capita, and competitive wages considering the local cost of living. The city is therefore a great place to live and work – just ask Peyton Manning.
5 Tips for Navigating Work Relocation
- Use a Local Address to Line Up a Gig Before Moving: If you have a friend or relative who lives in your prospective new home of choice, ask them if you can use their address on applications and other correspondence. Employers are more likely to consider “local” candidates, as doing so makes for much simpler logistics in terms of the interview process and the perceived hassle of relocation. Plus, it may give you a free place to crash when you visit for interviews.
- Focus on Skill Acquisition, Not Salary: You shouldn’t get hung up on compensation to the point that you accept the highest offer, regardless of what exactly you’ll be doing for the money. You also need to consider the skills gap that exists in this country, as 39% of employers report not being able to find applicants with the requisite skills to fill available jobs. With salaries expected to rise along with the economic recovery, now might not be a bad time to take a little bit less money in order to gain the experience necessary to take a major step forward in your career.
- Customize Your Approach for Each Employer: The carpet-bombing approach does not work for job hunting. Hiring managers can spot a form cover letter from a mile away, and that signals to them both a lack of effort and a certain cluelessness in terms of how to engage with one’s target audience through written communication.
- Don’t Move if the Juice Isn’t Worth the Squeeze: The average cost of relocating for work is roughly $12,500, according to Worldwide ERC. You’ll also have to pay the price in terms of losing touch with your social circle, extended family, and even local business contacts. So, it is therefore extremely important that you consider all costs – both financial and otherwise – prior to signing on the dotted line.
- Plan Homecoming Well in Advance: When you move to a new city, having a clear sense of when you will first visit home can go a long way toward mitigating the inevitable nerves and discomfort that come with unfamiliarity. Not only that, but studies have shown plane tickets to be cheapest when booked seven weeks in advance and the same figures to be true, at least to a certain extent, for train and bus tickets as well.
Ask The Experts: Career Counseling 101
“A common mistake for introverts is to stay in their office and do all of their job search online. They may work hard at their job search, but they need to be encouraged to get out of their office. A common mistake for extroverts is to network all the time, and to have less patience with researching companies and opportunites online!
Another mistake is to assume that "I have this job in the bag," meaning when they get an interview, they may feel they are a good fit and that they will likely get the job. So, they taper off their job search efforts waiting for the offer.”
– Connie Wanberg, University of Minnesota
“Regardless of what stage a person is in their career, maintaining lifetime employability is going to be a challenge. I would advise any one working today to do three things:
- Engage in career networking and expand your number of contacts in your field. Job opportunities are more likely to come through personal contacts than through traditional job search efforts such as internet job postings.
- Keep up with the skills needed in your field. Changes in technology and work place practice make everyone a lifetime learner. So take advantage of any training your employer may offer or check local community colleges and universities to upgrade your knowledge and skills.
- Today, workers need to be proactive in managing their careers, so a little career planning can go a long way. If there is a position you want, I recommend talking to people who already hold that position ask them what it takes to be successful in that position.”
– Brian Joseph Taber, Oakland University
“Employers frequently report job seekers demonstrate weak social skills during interviews and although they may have the technical skills to perform the job function, they often are passed over because of their limited social skills.”
– Karen S. Thompson, East Carolina University
“We do a survey every year of the employers that recruit college students within the state of Minnesota. Putting that together with our experiences, one of the things that employers do say job seekers need to improve upon is having realistic job expectations. Job seekers do not do the necessary research when they’re seeking employment.”
– Addie Turkowski, St. Cloud State University
In order to compare the relative opportunities for job seekers in America’s largest cities, one must first identify the factors that truly distinguish one city from another as an attractive employment destination. These factors can be broken down into three general categories: 1) Ease of Finding a Job; 2) Salary & Benefits; 3) Cost of Living. In other words, a given city is no good if you cannot find a job or you will not be paid enough to make ends meet.
Those three categories can be further segmented into the following 13 metrics, which WalletHub weighted based on importance and then combined in order to arrive at the final Best Cities for Job Seekers rankings.
- Number of Job Openings (Weight = 1) – Moving for work is all about opportunity. You don’t want to waste time, money, and energy relocating to an area that leaves you jobless and no better off than where you started, after all.That is why Job Openings Per Capita is a more effective indicator of local employment opportunity than simply considering a city’s size or economic strength. This also gives you a sense of how much competition there will be for every available position, and therefore what your chances of success are likely to be.
- Employment Growth (Weight = 1) – Is a particular city’s job market expanding or contracting over time? You want to bet on somewhere with a bright future, rather than its best days in the rear-view mirror. This metric serves to provide an accurate long-term view of local economic conditions by comparing workforce growth to overall population growth. Looking only at the total number of jobs added or lost over a certain time period would be misleading, as it would not take into account the role of social dynamics and other peripheral factors.
- Unemployment Rate Trend (Weight = 1) – The trajectory of local unemployment rates and the relative magnitude by which they’ve fluctuated in recent years are indicative of what the next few years are likely to hold from an employment perspective. Much like the Great Recession hit certain areas of the country harder than others, the recession is progressing at a different pace in different places. You must be careful to tie your fortunes to an area on the come up, rather than one that has been characterized by stagnancy of late.
- Industry Variety (Weight = 1) – This report was designed to characterize the most bountiful job markets for the average job seeker, independent of background or industry focus. It is therefore important to determine how diversified each city’s economy is, and thus how attractive it will be to different types of professionals.
- Part-Time vs. Full-Time (Weight = 0.5) – Simply examining the number of job openings in each city and/or the size of its labor force could lead to a misleading portrayal of the opportunities that exist in local job markets, as it does not take into account the scope of the average’s employer’s commitment to their employees. The ratio of part-time to full-time jobs is therefore extremely important because it indicates what types of jobs are likely to be available and their likelihood of satisfying your family’s financial needs.
- Employees Living in Poverty (Weight = 0.5) – You don’t want to move to a place where a high percentage of the workforce is living below the poverty line. Such job markets aren’t doing it for the locals, which means adding yet another person in need of employment to the mix is likely to be a fool’s errand.
- Health Care Coverage (Weight = 0.5) – Where salary and hours are equal, benefits are often the deciding factor for job seekers. We therefore compared the percentage of each city’s workforce that has private health care coverage in order to gauge the affordability of insurance given local prices, wages, and employer contributions.
- Starting Salary (Weight = 1) – Immediate monetary opportunity is one of the main draws for job seekers in this type of economic climate. Most people need a way to pay the bills now more so than they do experience that will only pay off years down the road, if ever. The starting salary that one can expect in each city is therefore very important and allows for a tangible assessment of how the additional monthly income would improve your financial life.
- Local Cost of Living (Weight = 1) – $100k in Lincoln, Nebraska is far different than $100k in New York City given the drastic differences in cost of living between the two cities. Offers from employers in different cities must therefore be viewed through the prism of local economic conditions in order to get an apples to apples comparison of exactly how much money will end actually up in your wallet at the end of the day.
- Housing Costs (Weight = 1) – People who move for work must obviously find a place to live, and it’s best for their overall financial stability to choose a city where housing costs leave plenty left over for paying other bills and saving for the future. This metric compares the median local salary to the median local house price to determine how much house a year’s salary would get you in a particular area.
- Income Tax Burden (Weight = 1) – High wages aren’t going to be as beneficial as you might think if you end up giving money hand over fist to good ole’ Uncle Sam. Salary, cost of living, and tax burden must all be considered in order to accurately evaluate your financial incentives for moving to a given area. This metric accounts for the latter factor.
- Time Spent Working & Commuting (Weight = 0.5) – Salary statistics alone cannot speak to a given city’s fiscal efficiency. The amount of time one spends earning their salary must be considered as well in order to gauge the hourly payoff of a job in a particular city.
- Disability Friendliness (Weight = 0.5) – The percentage of people with disabilities in a given city’s workforce is indicative of the area’s overall inclusiveness.
Sources: The data used to compile this report is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Indeed.com, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Association for Business Economics, the National Association for Colleges and Employers, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.