Colorado is a natural fit if you’re a millennial looking for work. Jobs are plentiful across multiple sectors, and you’ll find no shortage of other people your age to meet, mingle and network with. As of 2013, millennials make up over a quarter of the state population, according to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
Millennials on the move
People who’ve moved to the state are over half of Colorado’s population — and just 43% of residents were born there, according to state and local figures. Millennials, in particular, make up the majority of those who move to the state, with most coming from California, Texas and Arizona, the data show.
Colorado’s economic environment is ripe for young, skilled workers to thrive. Even during the economic downturn, Colorado’s unemployment rate stayed below the national average, according to Congress’ Joint Economic Committee. In addition to job opportunities, the promise of decent wages, a plethora of outdoor and recreational opportunities as well as affordable housing are all reasons millennials are moving to Colorado.
- Are there jobs in the area? We looked at the unemployment rate in 2013 and the average worker payroll salary in 2012, using the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data. We determined the average worker’s salary with the census bureau’s payroll data 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. Higher percentages received positive scores.
Commuting distance to Denver. Eight of the 10 cities on our list are in the Denver Metropolitan Area. Even the two other cities — Evans and Fort Collins — are less than a 90-minute drive from downtown Denver. Denver holds great pull as not only the state capital, but also as the largest city in a 600-mile radius.
Seven industries draw millennials. Many of the major employers located in our top cities are part of seven growing sectors, as identified by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. These industries include health and wellness; energy and natural resources; aerospace; advanced manufacturing; bioscience; financial services; and defense and homeland security.
Best places for millennial job seekers in Colorado
One in four residents in Evans are millennials. The population of this age group grew over 15% from 2010 to 2013. Workers in Evans see the second-highest salaries on our list at an average of $68,632. Major employers in the area include Greeley-Evans Weld County School District 6, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Afni Inc., Bank of Choice and the City of Evans. Evans is at the intersection of two major routes and is within 60 miles of seven large cities including Greeley, Longmont, Loveland, Fort Collins, Boulder, Cheyenne and Denver.
Millennials in Englewood, which sits just south of Denver, in Arapahoe County, make up over a quarter of the population. Englewood residents have the highest salaries on our list at over $70,000 a year. They also pay the lowest rent of any city on our list at a median of $819 a month. The most popular job sector in Englewood is in health care and the city’s biggest employers include Centura Health, Swedish Medical Center and Craig Hospital. Other top employers are Comcast, Dish Network, the City of Englewood and the school district.
In Golden, one of the state’s oldest communities, about 29% of residents are millennials. The city is home to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the National Earthquake Information Center. Golden also serves as headquarters for the Coors Brewing Company, one of the city’s major employers. Other big employers in the area include CoorsTek, a semiconductor manufacturer, and PMC Technology, a hydraulic and lubrication products company. Attractions range from the Coors Brewery, to the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra, the American Mountaineering Center, live theater, nine museums and plenty of events at the Colorado School of Mines.
Louisville is a progressive city that maintains the charm and feel of a much smaller place. Here, about 16% of the city’s residents are millennials. Founded as a mining community, Louisville is now home to several technology companies and health care companies. Major employers include Adventist Hospital, GHX, Gaiam, Medtronic, Lockheed Martin Coherent Technologies, Cable Labs, Vaisala, Kiosk information Systems, Balfour Senior Living, Fresca foods and the Sierra Nevada Corp. Louisville is centrally located to several ski areas, Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder, the University of Colorado, Denver International Airport and Denver’s downtown.
In Boulder, millennial residents are 35% of the population. Here, residents see the second-highest rents on our list at a median of $1,172 per month, while salaries average about $56,815. Some of the top employers include University of Colorado Boulder, IBM, Covidien Surgical Solutions Group, Micro Motion, Lockheed Martin Information Systems, Whole Foods Market and a Google office. Boulder attracts active people who hike, climb and bike on trails throughout the area. The city is also known for its rich music and arts culture as well as breweries, wineries and distilleries.
Millennials are one in five residents in Broomfield. The city’s young adult age group saw a population jump of about 23% from 2010 to 2013. The city and county of Broomfield are part of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area and it is just 10 minutes from Boulder. Top employers are Level 3 Communications, Oracle, Hunter Douglas, Ball Corp., Sandoz, Brocade Communications Systems and the City and County of Broomfield. The city has a trail system, 1stBank Center, which hosts major events, and the Paul Derda Recreation Center and Flatiron Crossing shopping mall.
The “Mile High City,” the biggest city on our list, is immensely popular with millennials, who are 28% of the city’s population of over 619,000. Big employers here are federal and state governments. Within the education sector, large employers include the University of Colorado and the University of Denver. The health care industry is broad, with job opportunities at HealthONE, SCL Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Denver Health and University of Colorado Hospital. Denver International Airport is also another big employer. Since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, the cannabis industry has been creating new small businesses in the city. Not only are there plenty of job opportunities in Denver, but residents also see some of the lowest rents on our list at a median of $883 a month.
8. Lone Tree
Lone Tree is the smallest city on our list with just 11,600 residents. While it may be small, Lone Tree has seen its millennial population grow over 50% from 2010 to 2013. Unfortunately, the city is home to the highest median rents on our list at $1,271, as well as the lowest-average salaries at just over $45,302 annually. The city is part of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area, but it’s not just a bedroom community. Big employers include Charles Schwab, Sky Ridge Medical Center, Level 3, Nationwide Insurance, Kaiser Permanente, Sprint, Zynex Medical, University of Colorado Health and Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.
Littleton is, as the city’s motto says, “anything but little.” Millennials are about 18% of the city’s population of 43,000. Residents enjoy lower rents at a median of $902 a month and average salaries are over $49,000 a year. Littleton is the county seat of Arapahoe County and is part of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area. Initially a gold rush city, Littleton is now a bedroom community — about 86% of the city’s residents commute to work. The industries that offer the most opportunity for job seekers are public administration, health care and social assistance, educational services, administration and support for waste management and remediation, and retail trade.
10. Fort Collins
Fort Collins boasts the largest percentage of millennials on our list: 32% of the city’s population of nearly 147,000 is in this age group. The economy is made up of manufacturing and service-related businesses, with major employers such as Advanced Energy, Agilent Technologies, AMD, Anheuser-Busch, Avago Technologies, Qualfon, the City of Fort Collins and Colorado State University. The city has a flourishing beer and microbrewery culture and hosts the Colorado Brewer’s Festival annually.
Check out this interactive map of our top 10 cities for millennial job seekers in Colorado. Click on a marker to see each city’s overall score.
The overall score for each place is from the following sources:
- Millennials as a percentage of the population and the growth in the millennial population from 2010 to 2013 are each 15% of the score.
- The unemployment rate for each city is 20% of the score. The lower the unemployment rate, the higher the score.
- 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.
- Median gross rent is 20% of the score. The lower the rent, the higher the score.
All data are from the 2013 American Community Survey and the 2012 Business Patterns Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. NerdWallet analyzed 38 places in Colorado; places without payroll data weren’t included in this study.
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Biking toward the Flatirons near Boulder, Colorado, image via iStock.