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Best Cities for Millennial Job Seekers in Missouri

April 27, 2015
Best Cities for Millennial Job Seekers in Missouri
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Manufacturing and transportation are two of the top industries in Missouri. They were also among the industries hit hardest by the Great Recession, and that made it difficult in recent years for millennials to find jobs in the state.

There’s good news, though. The state’s job market is on the upswing. Missouri added 42,000 jobs from May 2013 to May 2014, and 6,500 of those jobs were in manufacturing, according to the state’s 2014 economic report.

Education and health care are also thriving in the Show-Me State. Since 2003, the sectors’ contribution to the state’s economy grew faster than any other industry, according to the report.

It’s no surprise, then, that many of the top cities for millennial job seekers in Missouri are industrial hubs or home to large regional medical centers.

NerdWallet considered the following factors to find the top 10 cities:

Are there jobs in the area? Using the most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures, we looked at the unemployment rate in 2013, and the average worker payroll salary in 2012. We determined the average worker’s salary with the census bureau’s payroll by ZIP code. Lower unemployment rates and higher payroll salaries scored positively.

Can you afford to rent near work? Using census data, we measured a city’s median rent, including utilities, to determine if an area has reasonable rent costs. Lower costs resulted in a positive score for a city.

Do other millennials live there? We determined that millennials are workers ages 18-33, which is the definition used in a March 2014 Pew Research Center report. We used two of the census bureau’s brackets, ages 20-24 and 25-34, to create a millennial group for our analysis. From this, we found the percentage of millennials in a city’s 2013 population and the growth of millennial residents from 2010 to 2013. High percentages received positive scores.

Our study analyzed 95 places in Missouri with populations over 5,000. Here’s the data set.

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Key takeaways

Some cities are still struggling. The median unemployment rate for cities we analyzed was 8.4% in 2013, the most recent data available at the city level. That’s well above the state’s current overall unemployment rate of 5.5%. In some cities, such as Pevely and Macon, low rent or high average payroll countered higher unemployment rates.

Affordability is key. Median rent is below the state average for nearly every city on this list. The one exception — Maryland Heights — also has the highest average payroll of the cities we analyzed.


1. Pevely

This small city along the Mississippi River saw an influx of millennials in recent years. Two likely factors: low rents and high salaries. Pevely’s median rent of $593 is among the lowest in the state. And the average salary for employees in this industrial hub is nearly $52,270 — second highest in the state. Pevely is also a short commute to St. Louis, home of nine Fortune 500 companies.

2. Jefferson City

Jefferson City has a lot going for it. Named the “most beautiful small town” in America by navigation mainstay Rand McNally, Missouri’s capital city boasts below-average median rent and unemployment. That’s thanks in part to state government jobs and other major employers, such as Scholastic and Capital Region Medical Center. Millennials can unwind with a Maximum Sentence IPA at Prison Brews, a craft brewpub near the former state penitentiary, or hike the nearly 30 miles of trails in the area.

3. Trenton

Trenton’s millennial population grew nearly 20% from 2010 to 2013. ConAgra Foods, the company behind Chef Boyardee and Healthy Choice, and Modine, a technology manufacturer, are two employers drawing younger workers to the city. Flanked by Lake Trenton to the east and Crowder State Park to the west, this small city boasts 110 acres of parks and holds an annual Missouri Day Festival every October.

4. Bowling Green

Rent in Bowling Green is just $484 a month — nearly $200 below the state average. That is a big plus for millennials drawn to the city by job opportunities in education and health care, which account for nearly a quarter of the city’s businesses. Bowling Green School District, which consists of two elementary schools and a middle and high school, has posted several open positions for the 2015-16 school year.

5. Macon

Manufacturing and agribusiness are two of the primary industries in Macon, a city of about 5,500 people in north-central Missouri. At $27,642, average payroll for Macon businesses is on the low side. But the city’s median rent of $399 is the lowest in the state, making it an affordable option for young adults on a budget.

6. Bonne Terre

Millennials relocating to Bonne Terre should have no trouble finding their peer group: 36% of the city’s nearly 7,000 residents were ages 18 to 33 in 2013. Most residents work in manufacturing, education, health services or retail, according to the city’s chamber of commerce. Median rent in Bonne Terre, rated among the safest cities in Missouri by SafeWise, is just $453.

7. Fulton

Fulton is home to two colleges — Westminster College, the site of Winston Churchill’s 1946 Sinews of Peace, or Iron Curtain, speech, and William Woods University — as well as Fulton Public Schools, the Missouri School for the Deaf and two private schools. Average payroll in Fulton was nearly $39,000 in 2012, well above the state average of $30,293.

8. Maryland Heights

Named the “Digital Capitol of Missouri” by Google in 2013, Maryland Heights is a business and entertainment hub on the outskirts of the St. Louis metropolitan area. The city’s top employers include Edward Jones, Hollywood Casino and Magellan Health, which added over 1,600 jobs from 2003 to 2012. These top employers are one reason why Maryland Heights boasted an average payroll of almost $56,775 in 2012, the highest of all the cities we analyzed for this study.

9. Maryville

A large millennial population — nearly 40% of the city’s 12,000 residents were ages 18 to 33 in 2013 — and employers such as Kawasaki and Northwest Missouri State University, helped push Maryville into the top 10 cities for job seekers. Nodaway County Economic Development, as well as the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Small Business and Technology Development Center at Northwest Missouri State, support existing businesses and help new ones get off the ground.

10. Neosho

Millennials looking for a midsize city with inexpensive rent and below-average unemployment rates will find themselves right at home in Neosho. At 5.3%, the city’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the state, and median rent in 2013 was $557, over $100 less than the state average. The southwest Missouri town is also known for its natural beauty, with nine natural springs located within the city limits.




The overall score for each place was derived from the following sources:

  1. Millennials as a percentage of the population and the growth in the millennial population from 2010 to 2013 are each 15% of the score.
  2. The unemployment rate for each city is 20% of the score. The lower the unemployment rate, the higher the score.
  3. Average annual worker salary is 30% of the overall score. Salary figures were calculated by averaging salaries by ZIP code, then dividing by the population.
  4. Median gross rent is 20% of the score. The lower the rent, the higher the score.

All data comes from 2013 American Community Survey and the 2012 Business Patterns Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. NerdWallet analyzed 98 places in Missouri, but three places without payroll data were excluded.

Jefferson City, Missouri, image via iStock.