October 7, 2011

Top 10 Best Cities for Educated Job Seekers

More opportunities await potential employees in these locations

This unemployed worker with two degrees standing on Wall St. may want to expand his job search to one of the cities on this list. (Photo:AP) This unemployed worker with two degrees standing on Wall St. may want to expand his job search to one of the cities on this list. (Photo:AP)

In a tough job market, underscored by September's tepid jobs report, it always helps to know some of the best places to find work. More educated members of the labor force will find more opportunities in some of these cities, where the demand for education narrows the field of applicants.

In fact, according to a study released in September by the Brookings Institution, the number of years of education required for average U.S. jobs actually increased ahead of the number of workers sufficiently educated to fill those jobs. So the more highly educated an applicant is, the greater the edge he or she will have.

Some cities, says the study, titled “Education, Demand, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America,” actually have an “education gap”—a shortage of educated workers relative to employer demand—which, if too great, can lead to a higher unemployment rate. Conversely, the smaller the education gap, the better an individual’s chances of getting a job.

So, job hunters—who may be your clients’ children as well—polish off those educational credentials: here are the top 10 best cities and metropolitan areas where your education could move you to the front of the line. (But you may want to avoid searching in AdvisorOne's Top 10 Worst Cities for Educated Job Seekers.)

Worker at a computer plant.10. San Jose-
Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

Just remember that real estate bubble. It’s here, too, but manufacturing in the area took a hit as well—which is why the unemployment rate is 9.9% after rising 5.3 percentage points during the recession. Still, Cisco, IBM, and lots of other tech companies are located here, so if you’re computer-savvy, this could be the place for you.

View of Minneapolis9. Minneapolis-St. Paul-
Bloomington, Minn.-Wis.

The unemployment rate in the Twin Cities area only rose 2.5% to 6.3% during the recession. Ameriprise Financial lives here, as do Target, PepsiAmericas, Securian Financial, EcoLabs and Caribou Coffee. Plus, with the Mall of America nearby, you’ll never have to wonder where to spend that paycheck.

Boston's Faneuil Hall8. Boston-Cambridge-
Quincy, Mass.-New Hampshire

Its unemployment rate is only 6.6%, rising only 3 percentage points from pre-recession levels. It boasts MIT, Harvard, and Tufts—all needing highly educated workers. It might be smart to look here.

Entrance to Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash.7. Seattle-Tacoma-
Bellevue, Wash.

With an 8.5% unemployment rate that has risen by 4.4 percentage points since the recession started, Seattle does have its issues with employment.

But we have a few words to offer about that: Amazon! Starbucks! Microsoft! All headquartered in the Northwest.

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge6. San Francisco-
Oakland-Fremont, Calif.

The unemployment rate in the San Francisco area may seem daunting at 9.3%, and it’s true that it rose by 5.1 percentage points since the onset of the recession. However, the study chalks that up to banking deregulation, which paved the way for the housing bubble—a factor that the high-unemployment, low-education-gap cities have in common.

Still, San Francisco boasts a substantial technology industry, as well as biomedical and biotech companies.

View of Raleigh, NC5. Raleigh-Cary, N.C.

This is the famous Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, host to major universities such as Duke, biotechnology research centers and hospitals.

The education gap here is only a shade higher than the previous four, and its unemployment rate is lower than the Bridgeport, Conn., area at 7.9%. It also rose less than Bridgeport’s, by only 4.3 percentage points.

Offices of SAC Capital Advisors in Bridgeport4. Bridgeport-Stamford-
Norwalk, Conn.

The unemployment rate in the Bridgeport metropolitan region may sound a bit high as well, adding 4.5 percentage points since the recession began to come in at 8.5%. OK, so it’s more than doubled. But if you’re looking for something in the financial services field, this could be your destination of choice.

Because of its proximity to Manhattan, the region is home to lots of money businesses, such as Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund. You’ll also find SAC Capital Advisors here, and Aladdin Capital—not to mention health care services firms and a number of other big corporations whose employees enjoy life north of Long Island Sound.

Electric car designed by BYU students on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.3. Provo-Orem, Utah

The unemployment rate in and around Provo and Orem is 7.5%, up 5 percentage from before the onset of the downturn. That may sound like a lot, but the education gap in the Provo region is tied with our nation’s capital for the second lowest in the country.

Besides, with 30,000-student-strong Brigham Young University, software, tech and biotech firms in residence, and a nice spread of other industries represented here, you could do worse on that job search.

U.S. Capitol2. Washington, D.C.-
Arlington-Alexandria, Va.

No surprise here. With the second lowest education gap and an unemployment rate of 5.7%, up 2.7 percentage points from pre-recession days, the region including and surrounding the nation’s capital is the place to be for jobseekers on the way up.

Need to know more? You’ll find defense contractors clustered around the seat of the national government, and such eminent institutions as Georgetown University, the Smithsonian Institution, and an abundance of high-level military installations like the Pentagon, too. So educated jobseekers will find plenty of opportunities for brainy work.

Wisconsin state capital in Madison.1. Madison, Wis.

The No. 1 city for prospective job hunters is Madison, with the lowest education gap in the country. Its unemployment rate, at 5.3% (all such rates listed here are as of May 2011), makes it the 20th lowest metropolitan area in the U.S.; that rate has only risen 1.9 percentage points since the recession began.

With the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the teaching hospital attached to the university, and other major hospitals, the capital city of Wisconsin boasts an assortment of biotech and insurance companies as well.

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Top 10 lists from AdvisorOne:

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