Best Cities for Job Seekers in 2017

Personal Finance
Best Cities for Job Seekers in 2017

Many people will ring in the new year resolving to travel, learn a new language or spend extra time at the gym. But those looking for work will make a toast in the hopes of something else: landing a job in an affordable city.

To identify the best places for job seekers in 2017, NerdWallet analyzed federal data for the 100 largest U.S. cities to determine where Americans will find opportunities and also where their paychecks will go further.

We factored in each place’s October 2016 unemployment rate from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as the increase in the working-age population from 2010 to 2015 with U.S. Census Bureau data. These two metrics, which represent the health of a city’s job market, were given the most weight in our analysis. Our methodology also includes census data for median earnings and median monthly rent in each city to provide a gauge of cost of living.

The top 10 cities for job seekers

Austin, Texas, claimed the No. 1 spot in our analysis, followed by Denver; Nashville, Tennessee; Seattle; and Durham, North Carolina. Atlanta; Minneapolis; Lincoln, Nebraska; Irving, Texas; and Raleigh, North Carolina, round out the top 10.

Scroll through the chart below to see the data and the scores of the 100 largest cities.

RankCity Unemployment rate in October 2016Employed population growth 2010-2015Median 2015 annual earnings for full-time workers Median monthly rent in 2015Score
1Austin, Texas3.2%34.51%$45,669$1,13978.96
2Denver, Colorado2.9%29.54%$47,741$1,09477.58
3Nashville, Tennessee3.8%29.46%$40,253$92172.68
4Seattle, Washington4.2%29.56%$62,903$1,35672.63
5Durham, North Carolina4.2%30.93%$41,323$92972.10
6Atlanta, Georgia4.9%31.61%$50,424$98171.34
7Minneapolis, Minnesota3.1%19.50%$48,249$91270.64
8Lincoln, Nebraska2.8%18.13%$40,998$77070.46
9Irving, Texas3.6%25.09%$39,318$97769.16
10Raleigh, North Carolina4.1%25.54%$42,345$97068.02
11Fremont, California3.9%25.08%$76,499$1,92367.99
12Boston, Massachusetts2.6%18.04%$54,724$1,42367.94
13St. Paul, Minnesota3.1%17.72%$41,947$87467.67
14Orlando, Florida4.5%29.44%$38,264$1,02767.27
15Miami, Florida5.1%36.30%$29,233$1,02067.14
16Washington, District of Columbia3.9%19.55%$68,171$1,41766.85
17Aurora, Colorado2.9%19.03%$40,851$1,12066.52
18Charlotte, North Carolina4.5%25.93%$42,496$97866.27
19Dallas, Texas3.6%20.40%$37,213$90365.53
20Fort Worth, Texas3.6%18.78%$41,901$93665.27
21Mesa, Arizona4.5%24.21%$39,798$89265.05
22Reno, Nevada3.6%18.39%$39,206$87764.81
23Greensboro, North Carolina4.8%25.54%$36,846$80164.78
24Omaha, Nebraska3.2%13.98%$41,422$81364.65
25San Jose, California3.9%23.93%$60,277$1,75763.98
26Scottsdale, Arizona4.5%17.48%$61,779$1,14363.38
27Plano, Texas3.6%14.06%$58,989$1,22363.30
28Glendale, Arizona4.5%22.49%$36,567$86762.93
29Madison, Wisconsin2.7%9.42%$45,945$98162.86
30Laredo, Texas4.4%22.34%$31,706$78262.81
31Lexington, Kentucky3.4%12.68%$42,247$81662.80
32Columbus, Ohio3.9%16.85%$40,866$87162.62
33Portland, Oregon4.7%21.94%$46,907$1,04762.55
34San Francisco, California3.9%15.94%$72,447$1,65962.36
35Oakland, California3.9%18.13%$50,183$1,24062.20
36Lubbock, Texas3.2%13.23%$36,463$85362.03
37Louisville, Kentucky3.9%14.54%$41,134$76962.01
38San Antonio, Texas3.7%16.39%$36,246$90161.47
39Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania3.1%8.86%$44,725$85861.45
40Indianapolis, Indiana3.6%13.35%$38,123$80761.17
41Kansas City, Missouri4.1%15.15%$41,450$83360.84
42Colorado Springs, Colorado3.5%11.60%$44,606$98560.14
43Houston, Texas5.1%22.12%$39,377$92359.81
44Milwaukee, Wisconsin4.0%13.70%$38,150$80259.50
45New Orleans, Louisiana5.4%23.23%$40,943$94759.40
46Fort Wayne, Indiana3.5%9.42%$37,108$71659.21
47Arlington, Texas3.6%12.35%$39,668$96458.97
48St. Louis, Missouri4.3%12.75%$39,386$76758.01
49Richmond, Virginia4.2%13.92%$40,153$92757.81
50Phoenix, Arizona4.5%16.04%$38,669$92257.64
51Cincinnati, Ohio4.1%8.77%$40,885$65857.50
52Corpus Christi, Texas5.6%22.28%$39,300$93157.29
53Gilbert, Arizona4.5%15.71%$53,057$1,32357.10
54Sacramento, California5.2%20.17%$42,562$1,08556.78
55Winston-Salem, North Carolina4.5%12.72%$37,227$74156.61
56Oklahoma City, Oklahoma4.3%10.88%$40,592$81456.29
57Irvine, California4.8%16.52%$80,723$2,07056.00
58El Paso, Texas4.8%13.58%$35,476$75255.12
59Toledo, Ohio5.5%16.37%$36,244$67954.98
60Tampa, Florida4.7%13.39%$41,770$97454.80
61Philadelphia, Pennsylvania5.1%15.31%$41,815$95254.63
62Tulsa, Oklahoma5.1%14.00%$37,289$76854.33
63Chandler, Arizona4.5%10.26%$51,444$1,15354.13
64Long Beach, California4.8%14.03%$43,913$1,14553.47
65Honolulu, Hawaii2.9%6.67%$41,827$1,39453.44
66Riverside, California6.1%23.56%$39,550$1,17453.03
67San Diego, California4.8%14.88%$51,440$1,44452.97
68Arlington, Virginia3.9%3.40%$80,665$1,84452.44
69Chicago, Illinois5.5%13.47%$47,303$98552.41
70Los Angeles, California4.8%15.92%$40,190$1,27152.38
71Baltimore, Maryland4.4%6.86%$44,419$98151.70
72Jacksonville, Florida5.2%12.79%$39,534$96351.23
73Anaheim, California4.8%16.65%$38,456$1,39251.01
74Wichita, Kansas4.5%2.66%$40,637$73449.50
75St. Petersburg, Florida4.7%6.73%$41,183$96949.22
76Jersey City, New Jersey5.0%7.38%$53,639$1,24148.89
77Buffalo, New York4.9%4.63%$38,473$71148.70
78New York, New York5.0%8.99%$50,078$1,31748.21
79Garland, Texas3.6%0.63%$36,280$1,02047.65
80Detroit, Michigan5.4%9.54%$31,143$74747.50
81Baton Rouge, Louisiana5.0%3.92%$40,714$80547.19
82Santa Ana, California4.8%15.50%$26,952$1,35946.89
83Paradise, Nevada5.5%8.89%$35,936$87446.44
84Las Vegas, Nevada5.5%8.06%$40,324$98345.84
85Tucson, Arizona4.8%2.11%$34,384$77545.11
86Memphis, Tennessee5.4%6.45%$34,396$82645.04
87Hialeah, Florida5.1%10.61%$27,149$1,05944.97
88Henderson, Nevada5.5%5.40%$49,596$1,14444.63
89North Las Vegas, Nevada5.5%8.86%$35,233$1,06243.99
90Chesapeake, Virginia4.6%0.87%$47,243$1,21843.86
91Cleveland, Ohio5.0%-0.78%$35,202$66443.29
92Norfolk, Virginia4.6%-2.07%$39,770$98741.86
93Bakersfield, California9.1%23.37%$42,170$97940.83
94Newark, New Jersey5.0%1.40%$32,232$97840.45
95Anchorage, Alaska5.7%1.82%$52,237$1,24140.36
96Virginia Beach, Virginia4.6%-2.72%$45,699$1,25839.96
97Stockton, California7.6%12.26%$37,296$94338.21
98Albuquerque, New Mexico6.0%-1.44%$39,640$80237.44
99Chula Vista, California4.8%-4.35%$46,778$1,36036.75
100Fresno, California9.2%9.83%$38,472$91028.89

Key takeaways

Follow the young people. Nine of the 10 best cities for job seekers have higher-than-average percentages of 20-somethings, according to 2015 census data. In the 100 cities we analyzed, 20- to 29-year-olds make up 17.2% of the population, on average, while nationwide that figure is 13.9%. Minneapolis, Seattle, Atlanta and Austin all have a 20-something population from 20.3% to 21.8%.

Find fast-growing hubs. Technology industries, such as software publishing, telecommunications and computer manufacturing, are among the fastest-growing in terms of output — the value of what’s produced — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014-2024 employment projection. The health care and social assistance sectors are on the rise, too. In several of the cities that topped our list, technology and health care are major industries.

  • Technology. In Austin, Dell and IBM each employ thousands, as does Apple, which recently completed a massive campus there. The Seattle metro area has opportunities for job seekers at its downtown headquarters and in nearby Microsoft and Boeing Co. facilities. Residents of Durham and Raleigh have a quick commute to the 7,000-acre Research Triangle Park, where over 46,000 people work in the tech sector. The Denver region has a robust aerospace industry. Each of these cities offers a more affordable cost of living than San Francisco, another tech destination, which ranked 34th in the analysis and had a median rent of $1,659 in 2015.
  • Health care. In Nashville, health care is the largest and fastest-growing industry, with 250 health care companies headquartered in the region. Atlanta is home to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as dozens of health information and technology companies. In Durham, Duke University and Health System is the city’s largest employer by far.

Head to state capitals. Half of the 10 best cities for job seekers are state capitals: Austin, Denver, Nashville, Atlanta and Raleigh. These cities tend to have more opportunities to work in government. In Austin, for example, over 6,000 people work in federal or state government jobs. In Wake County, home of the capital, Raleigh, the state of North Carolina is the largest employer with over 24,000 employees.

Get involved, wherever you live

Whether job seekers find work in one of these top cities or elsewhere, a career consultant says to add one more resolution for 2017: embracing your new community.

“Volunteering exposes you to new people who can become part of your life professionally, now or in the future,” says Andrea Kay, author of “This Is How to Get Your Next Job.”

Meet people outside your new employer by joining professional organizations and attending local industry events, she says.

“Look for visible projects to work on in a nonprofit, arts or civic organization or city-sponsored event,” Kay says. “The best thing you can do for your career is to surround yourself with people who know you, like you and want to help you.”

Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @lauraemcmullen. Sreekar Jasthi is a data analyst at NerdWallet. Email:


For each of the 100 largest U.S. cities, NerdWallet created a score and ranking based on these metrics:

Unemployment rate. We used October 2016 unemployment rates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These rates for 100 metropolitan areas were aligned with the 100 largest cities. This is 33.3% of a city’s score.

Workforce growth. We looked at the growth in the population of full-time, employed residents age 16 and up from 2010 to 2015 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey. This is 33.3% of the score.

Annual salary. We factored in the 2015 median earnings of full-time workers age 16 and up from the 2015 American Community Survey. This is 16.7% of the score.

Housing cost. We included the median cost of monthly rent from the 2015 American Community Survey. This is 16.7% of the score.