Advertiser Disclosure

Best Cities for Job Seekers

Jan. 19, 2013
Personal Finance
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

NerdWallet crunched the numbers to find the fastest-growing cities for those seeking employment.  NerdWallet ranked 26 U.S. cities based on four factors, including population growth, income, unemployment rate, and the cost of living.

For more information, check out our Cost of Living Calculator and City Life tool.

Top ten cities for job-seekers

1. Austin, TX

With the highest percent growth in population and the lowest unemployment rate, Austin is a clear winner as the best choice for job seekers.  The median income is moderately high, and the cost of living is low.  Job seekers should check out this fast-growing city, particularly for jobs in the burgeoning tech industry.  Large tech company Dell is headquartered there, and companies like Apple and Google have offices there as well.  IBM has a large research center in Austin, and biotechnology is a growing field as well.

2. Washington, DC

DC has had a significant population growth as well, and the median income is much higher than most cities.  Although the unemployment rate and cost of living are high, the significantly higher-than-average median income makes the city more affordable for job seekers.  At the heart of American politics, DC attracts aspiring public servants for numerous jobs with politicians and thinktanks.

3. San Francisco, CA

San Francisco’s high cost of living is matched by its relatively high median income.  With Silicon Valley nearby, San Francisco has become a tech hub in recent years, and its population growth indicates this city is home to many transplants.  Tech and tourism dominate the job market in San Francisco, and tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yelp and Dropbox are located in or just outside the city.

4. Denver, CO

With a 3.3% growth in population over recent years, Denver is an up-and-coming city.  Although the unemployment rate is fairly high, the relatively low cost of living improves the odds that a job seeker can afford to live there.  Denver’s top industries include aerospace, broadcasting and telecommunications, energy and healthcare.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is located in Golden, CO, and employment in the healthcare industry has increased by 23% in the last 5 years.

5. Houston, TX

Houston’s recent high population growth and moderately low unemployment rate shows that this city is extremely friendly to job seekers.  With its low cost of living, the city is affordable for new residents and renters.  Houston is a hub for healthcare research, manufacturing, aerospace (the city is home to a NASA research center) and alternative energy.

6. Fort Worth, TX

Fort Worth’s upsurge in population, low unemployment rate and low cost of living make it a great place for job seekers.  Although the median income is low, so is the cost of living.  Fort Worth is home to American Airlines and employs many in the airline and manufacturing industries.

7. Dallas, TX

Texas sweeps the board with perks for job-seekers, and Dallas is no exception.  With a low cost of living and low unemployment rate, the city is friendly to job seekers.  Known as the “Silicon Prairie,” Dallas is home to many tech companies, and it’s very near the Telecom Corridor, a hub for telecommunications manufacturing.

8. Seattle, WA

The home of Microsoft, Seattle is a hub for tech jobs.  With a high median income, low unemployment rate and moderately high cost of living, Seattle is a great option for job seekers.  The key industries in this city are biotechnology and healthcare, with one out of every five jobs linked to the healthcare industry sector.  The city is focused on green initiatives, and there are plenty of green building and clean technology startups as well.

9. San Antonio, TX

San Antonio has a very low unemployment rate and a low cost of living, making it a better option than most for job seekers.  San Antonio is rapidly growing in the field of cybersecurity and information technology, with more than 80 information-technology and cyber-related businesses in the city.  San Antonio’s economy is focused on financial services, healthcare and defense.  The defense industry employs over 89,000 San Antonio residents.

10. Charlotte, NC

Charlotte’s upsurge in population, coupled with the moderately high median income and low cost of living, make this an ideal city for job seekers.  Charlotte’s major industries include banking (Bank of America is located there), motorsports (multiple NASCAR offices are housed there) and defense.

City Percent change in population Median income Unemployment rate Cost of living index Median 2-bedroom apartment rent Overall score for job seekers
1 Austin, TX 3.8% $31,170 6.2% 94.4 $968 85.2
2 Washington, DC 2.7% $43,993 10.2% 150.9 $1,823 80.8
3 San Francisco, CA 0.9% $46,777 8.6% 168.3 $2,702 78.3
4 Denver, CO 3.3% $32,051 9.1% 105.1 $931 74.4
5 Houston, TX 2.2% $26,849 8.2% 94.2 $1,311 70.8
6 Fort Worth, TX 2.3% $24,270 8.0% 89.3 $980 69.9
7 Dallas, TX 2.1% $27,251 8.5% 96.4 $792 69.2
8 Seattle, WA 2.0% $41,695 7.5% 116.2 $1,417 69.1
9 San Antonio, TX 2.4% $22,333 7.4% 87.7 $823 68.5
10 Charlotte, NC 2.7% $31,667 9.2% 93.7 $790 64.8


The overall score for job seekers was derived from the following measures, equally weighted:

  1. Percent change in population between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2011 from the U.S. Census
  2. Median income of residents (per person, not per household) from the U.S. Census
  3. Unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011 ranking
  4. Cost of living index from the ACCRA cost of living index.  A score of 100 represents the national average

We included the 25 most populous cities in this analysis.  Median 2-bedroom apartment rent is included in the table for reference, but it did not contribute to the city composite score.  Data came from the U.S. Census and C2ER’s ACCRA study.

Businessman image from Shutterstock.