Despite a slow but steady economic recovery, the nation’s unemployment rate remains stuck at about 6%, forcing many Americans to consider moving to find their next job.
“A lot of people, either single or with family, look at certain areas for career opportunities and where they’re going to see growth and success,” says Rebecca Harrell, a regional vice president at Randstad US, a national staffing and recruiting company. “Most companies enjoy providing opportunities for people who are willing to be flexible and relocate.”
To help guide job seekers in 2015, NerdWallet crunched the numbers for 100 of the largest U.S. cities to determine the best places to find employment. Here’s what we found:
Texas is the top state for job seekers. Six of our top 20 cities — including Fort Worth, Austin, Laredo, Corpus Christi, Lubbock and Irving — are in the Lone Star state.
It’s best to avoid the coasts. Most cities on our list are in the Midwest, Texas and the central U.S. Many places in California are low on the list because of relatively higher unemployment rates, low population growth and the high cost of living.
College towns welcome job seekers. Many of our top 20 cities are home to flagship universities, including Ohio State University, the University of Texas, the University of Minnesota, the University of Nebraska and the University of Wisconsin.
We analyzed three factors to determine the top cities for job seekers:
Job availability. We looked at unemployment rates for U.S. metropolitan areas to determine job availability in each city. A lower unemployment rate increased a city’s overall score.
Workforce growth. We considered the working-age population growth from 2009 to 2013. A strong rate of growth increased a city’s overall score.
Affordability. We equally weighted median income for full-time workers and median monthly rent to determine if a city is affordable. A higher median income and lower median monthly rent contributed to a higher score.
Best cities for job seekers in 2015
1. Lincoln, Nebraska
This Midwest city tops our list largely because it has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. With a median of $722 a month for rent, Lincoln residents pay the least for housing compared with people living in our other top 10 cities. The city’s largest employers include the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, BNSF Railway and several medical centers.
2. Fort Worth, Texas
Just 30 miles west of Dallas, Fort Worth has a rapidly growing working-age population, with a 10% growth rate from 2009 to 2013. More than 22,000 of those employees work for AMR Corp. and American Airlines, and thousands more find jobs at Lockheed Martin, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Independent School District.
3. Columbus, Ohio
Ohio’s state capital makes our list for its low unemployment rate and the relatively affordable median monthly rent of $809. The city’s top employers include the federal government, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Ohio State University and JPMorgan Chase & Co. However, Columbus residents earn about $40,000 a year, which is less than the national median income.
4. Minneapolis, Minnesota
The larger of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis is home to several Fortune 500 companies including Target, U.S. Bancorp, Xcel Energy and Ameriprise Financial. Residents here earn the second-highest median income in our top 10: $45,640 a year. Even though the city has one of the lowest working-age population growth rates in our top 10, it’s still higher than the national rate of 4.1%.
5. Denver, Colorado
The Mile High City scored better than the national averages in all three metrics we analyzed. Residents here make about $45,242 a year, which is the third highest in our top 10. In addition to the Denver Public School District and state and local governments, the city’s employers include the USDA National Finance Center, Denver Health and United Airlines.
6. Austin, Texas
Texas’ capital made our list for its 12.47% working-age population growth and a low jobless rate of 4%. The city thrives in advanced manufacturing, clean energy and life sciences, and has earned the nickname “Silicon Hills” for its growing technology industry. Major employers include the University of Texas at Austin, Dell and Seton Healthcare Family. However, Austin residents pay $1,008 a month for rent, the highest in our top 10.
7. Greensboro, North Carolina
Greensboro’s working-age population is growing quickly, at a rate of 11.17% from 2009 to 2013. The city’s largest employers include Cone Health, the U.S. Postal Service and Harris Teeter, a supermarket company. Other notable employers include Honda Aircraft Co., Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks.
8. Portland, Oregon
Portland’s eclectic mix of microbreweries, local businesses and liberal-minded population have helped give it the unofficial slogan “Keep Portland Weird.” The city’s workers earn about $49,616, the highest median income of our top 10, but it’s offset by a higher rent, about $956 a month — which is more than the national median. Major employers in Portland include Intel, Nike and several large grocery store companies and health systems.
9. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, the state’s largest city and capital, earns a spot on our list for its 3.9% unemployment rate, the 9.31% growth in its working-age population and the low median rent of $747 a month. Top employers include Tinker Air Force Base, a Federal Aviation Administration aeronautical center, Hobby Lobby Stores and Chesapeake Energy Corp. However, the city’s workers earn a median income of $36,718, which is the lowest in our top 10 and several thousand dollars less than the national average.
10. St. Paul, Minnesota
St. Paul holds many of the same economic characteristics that make its Twin City Minneapolis so attractive to job seekers — low unemployment, high affordability and a working-age population growth rate that’s higher than the national average. It only ranks a few spots below Minneapolis due to the median income being about $4,000 lower. The State of Minnesota, one of the largest employers in the area, is located in St. Paul.
Job availability: We looked at the October 2014 unemployment rates for U.S. metro areas based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A lower unemployment rate increased a city’s overall score.
Workforce growth: We considered cities’ working-age population growth rate from 2009 to 2013 with data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey. A higher growth rate increased a city’s overall score.
Affordability: We included median income for full-time workers and median gross monthly rent to determine if a city is affordable. The data for both metrics also came from the American Community Survey. A higher median income and a low median monthly rent increased a city’s overall score.
Note: This methodology is slightly different from last year’s Best Cities for Job Seekers in 2014. Instead of looking at overall population growth, we looked at growth in the working-age population. We used median rent, not monthly homeowner costs, to measure a city’s affordability.
NerdWallet examined the numbers for the nation’s 100 largest cities, but Honolulu, Hawaii, wasn’t included in the final list because of insufficient data.
Update: We had previously listed Charlotte, North Carolina, as the third-best city for job seekers but due to a data correction, the city is no longer included in the top 10.
Image via iStock.