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Best Towns in Illinois for Job Seekers

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Chicago

Illinois has added more than 251,000 private sector jobs since January 2010, including 5,900 in August 2013 alone. As many young professionals seek jobs, NerdWallet crunched the numbers to find the best places for job seekers in Illinois.

  1. Is the city growing? We assessed population growth of those 16 and older to ensure that the city is attracting workers.
  2. Do people earn high salaries? We included median household income in the calculation.
  3. Are most people employed? We looked at the unemployment rate.

Best Towns in Illinois for Job Seekers

1. Wilmette

Wilmette is located 4 miles north of Chicago, in Cook County, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Wilmette has seen a huge population growth of 4.3 percent from 2009 to 2011 and has a high median household income of $130,260. Additionally, Wilmette boasts a low unemployment rate of 6.7 percent. There are plenty of local businesses in Wilmette, and the government strives to help emerging businesses get off the ground.

2. Plainfield

Plainfield is a fast-growing village in Will County, having seen 9.6 percent population growth from 2009 to 2011. Additionally, it boasts a fantastic standard of living, with a high median household income of $108,239. Major employers in Plainfield are Diageo Global Supply and Mid-States Warehouse.

3. Oswego

Oswego is the largest village in Kendall County and has attracted many new residents in recent years. There has been a 12.1 percent population increase between 2009 and 2011, and the median household income is very high, at $93,588. Oswego is focusing on economic development, with two industrial parks in place and plans for further development.

4. Park Ridge 

Park Ridge is located near O’Hare International Airport, around 15 miles northwest of downtown Chicago. Park Ridge has seen 5.8 percent population growth between 2009 and 2011, and residents earn a high median income of $90,177. There is a low unemployment rate of 7.5 percent. Park Ridge’s major employers include the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, the Maine Township High School District and the Park Ridge-Niles School District.

5. Vernon Hills

Vernon Hills is located north of Chicago and is a retail hub for many surrounding neighborhoods. Vernon Hills residents earn a high median household income of $90,301. Plenty of workers are moving to Vernon Hills, which had a population growth of 3.0 percent from 2009 to 2011 and a low unemployment rate of 7.0 percent. Top employers in Vernon Hills include companies such as Zebra Technologies Corp., American Hotel Register and CDW Computer Centers.

6. Highland Park

Highland Park is situated on the banks of Lake Michigan, 23 miles north of Chicago. Highland Park residents have the second-highest median household income on our list, at $114,600. Additionally, there is a low unemployment rate of 6.3 percent. Highland Park supports local businesses with programs like SCORE Chicago, which offers low-cost business workshops and free mentoring services to small businesses. Culturally, too, Highland Park is a hot spot. The Ravinia Festival brings acclaimed artists to town each summer, and, last year, Smashing Pumpkin frontman Billy Corgan opened up a teahouse on Roger Williams Ave.

7. Northbrook

Northbrook is located in northern Cook County, 25 miles north of Chicago. Northbrook has a high median household income of $110,902 as well as a low unemployment rate of 7.4 percent. Principal employers in Northbrook include Allstate Insurance Company, Kraft and Baxter International. Additionally, Crate & Barrel is headquartered in Northbrook.

8. Naperville

Naperville is a thriving city with a population of 143,684, located 30 miles west of Chicago. Naperville has seen population growth of 1.2 percent from 2009 to 2011. Additionally, Naperville’s residents earn a high median household income of $105,585. Top employers in Naperville include Edward Hospital, Alcatel-Lucent and Nicor Gas.

9. Bartlett

Bartlett is a growing village 18 miles north of Naperville and 35 miles northwest of Chicago. It has seen a 3.1 percent population growth from 2009 to 2011. Residents boast a high median household income of $94,568. Main employers in Bartlett include School District U-46, Senior Flexonics and the Bartlett Park District.

10. Streamwood

Streamwood is located just north of Bartlett, about 18 miles north of Naperville. Streamwood has seen massive population growth of 8.6 percent from 2009 to 2011. Its median household income is $71,602. Streamwood’s major employers include Behavioral Health Center, Super Target and Ace Coffee Bar.

 

Rank City Nearest Big City Population Change (2009 to 2011) Median Household Income (2011) Unemployment Rate (2013) Overall Score
1 Wilmette Chicago 4.3% $130,260 6.7% 85.9
2 Plainfield Joliet 9.6% $108,239 8.7% 80.9
3 Oswego Aurora 12.1% $93,588 9.1% 79.0
4 Park Ridge Chicago 5.8% $90,177 7.5% 73.7
5 Vernon Hills Chicago 3.0% $90,301 7.0% 71.1
6 Highland Park Chicago -3.5% $114,600 6.3% 70.8
7 Northbrook Chicago -0.8% $110,902 7.4% 70.3
8 Naperville - 1.2% $105,585 8.1% 69.4
9 Bartlett Naperville 3.1% $94,568 8.0% 69.3
10 Streamwood Naperville 8.6% $71,602 8.5% 69.0

 

Methodology

The overall score for each city was derived from the following measures:

  1. Population change from 2009 to 2011 from the U.S. Census (2009 and 2011 ACS)
  2. Median household income from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS)
  3. Unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013)

99 Illinois cities designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 25,000 were considered.
Photo credit: Illinois Skyline by Mr. T in DC