Personal finance website NerdWallet released its list of the best cities for job seekers on Saturday. Using U.S. Census data, the website found the 10 best cities to look for a job based on population growth, income, unemployment rate, and the cost of living. Cost of living data is from The Council for Community and Economic Research.
In compiling the list, NerdWallet used 2011 unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the website had a good reason for looking back that far. “We wanted to discount seasonal noise,” Stephanie Wei, vice president of financial literacy for NerdWallet, told AdvisorOne on Monday. Furthermore, “a lot of information is only available at the metropolitan or state level. We wanted to get as granular as possible,” so they used BLS’ local area unemployment statistics for the 50 largest cities. Using data for an entire year, rather than on a single quarter, also helped filter out cyclical changes in unemployment rates, such as holiday or summer hiring, Wei said.
Texas is the state with the most cities in the Top 10. The parameters were weighted equally, Wei (right) said, so Texas’ overwhelming presence isn’t a statistical fluke. “These are cities that have built their own industries,” she added, citing Austin’s “up-and-coming tech hub” and Dallas’ “Silicon Prairie” as examples. “They’ve done a good job of branding their cities and attracting talent.”
Wei acknowledged that these cities are “not the end-all, be-all” for job seekers, adding that the list only provides a broad look at cities for job seekers to begin their search.
10. Charlotte, N.C.
Percent Change in Population: 2.7%
Median Income: $31,667
2011 Unemployment Rate: 9.2%
Cost of Living Index: 93.7
Overall Score for Job-Seekers: 64.8
No. 10 on the list is Charlotte, N.C., a city that has seen nearly 3% growth in population between April 2010 and July 2011, one of the highest on the list. With a median income per person of $31,667, Charlotte is right in the middle of the income distribution for the 10 cities, and the city has a lower than average cost of living. A cost of living score of 100 indicates the national average.
NerdWallet notes that banking, motorsports and defense are thriving industries in Charlotte.
9. San Antonio
Percent Change in Population: 2.4%
Median Income: $22,333
2011 Unemployment Rate: 7.4%
Cost of Living Index: 87.7
Overall Score for Job-Seekers: 68.5
Texas always has a good showing in Best Of lists. San Antonio is the fifth best city for job seekers in the state, according to NerdWallet, with one of the lowest unemployment rates and a low cost of living. Cybersecurity and information technology are “rapidly growing” sectors there, and the city’s economy has a strong focus on financial services, health care and defense. NerdWallet notes that the defense industry employs over 89,000 San Antonio residents.
Percent Change in Population: 2%
Median Income: $41,695
2011 Unemployment Rate: 7.5%
Cost of Living Index: 116.2
Overall Score for Job-Seekers: 69.1
Seattle boasted one of the highest median incomes on NerdWallet’s list, but it also has one of the highest cost of living scores. As the home of Microsoft, technology is a big industry. NerdWallet notes the biotechnology and health care sectors are key to this city’s growth, while green building and clean technology startups also have a foothold.
Another benefit for Seattle, for advisors anyway, is that it has relatively few advisors serving wealthy clients there. AdvisorOne undertook a research project in April 2012 to determine the concentration of advisors in several “wealth zones” around the country. With one advisor for every 291 households, Seattle was the third least concentrated region on the list.
Percent Change in Population: 2.1%
Median Income: $27,251
2011 Unemployment Rate: 8.5%
Cost of Living Index: 96.4
Overall Score for Job-Seekers: 69.2
Tech and telecommunications are the big industries in Dallas, according to NerdWallet. The city has a higher median income than San Antonio, but it also has a higher cost of living and unemployment rate.
What it doesn’t have though, is a lot of advisors. AdvisorOne found the city has one advisor for every 157 households. A report in March 2012 by Accounting Principles also named it one of the best cities in the country for financial services jobs in particular.
6. Fort Worth, Texas
Percent Change in Population: 2.3%
Median Income: $24,270
2011 Unemployment Rate: 8%
Cost of Living Index: 89.3
Overall Score for Job-Seekers: 69.9
Fort Worth had the lowest median income of the cities on NerdWallet’s list, but it also had one of the lowest scores on the cost of living index, following San Antonio. It’s home to American Airlines, and has many opportunities in the airline and manufacturing industries.
Percent Change in Population: 2.2%
Median Income: $26,849
2011 Unemployment Rate: 8.2%
Cost of Living Index: 94.2
Overall Score for Job-Seekers: 70.8
Health care research, manufacturing, aerospace and alternative energy are thriving industries in Houston. AdvisorOne found one advisor for every 308 households in the city, and Accounting Principles named it the No. 1 city for financial services jobs based on its large demand for accounting and finance professionals.
Percent Change in Population: 3.3%
Median Income: $32,051
Unemployment Rate: 9.1%
Cost of Living Index: 105.1
Overall Score for Job-Seekers: 74.4
NerdWallet noted the top industries in the city include aerospace, broadcasting and telecommunications, energy and health care, citing a 23% increase in health care employment over the past five years.
While the cost of living score is high, Wei noted that a score near 100 isn’t unmanageable. By comparison, the cost of living score for Manhattan, the most expensive city according to The Council for Community and Economic Research, is 229.6.
3. San Francisco
Percent Change in Population: 0.9%
Median Income: $46,777
2011 Unemployment Rate: 8.6%
Cost of Living Index: 168.3
Overall Score for Job-Seekers: 78.3
That San Francisco has the highest cost of living score’s on the list is no surprise, but it also has the highest median income. Located near Silicon Valley, the tech industry is booming in San Francisco, and tourism is a thriving industry.
And, with one advisor for every 363 households, AdvisorOne found that the Bay Area, including Mill Valley, San Jose and San Francisco, had the lowest concentration of advisors for wealthy neighborhoods.
Percent Change in Population: 2.7%
Median Income: $43,993
2011 Unemployment Rate: 10.2%
Cost of Living Index: 150.9
Overall Score for Job-Seekers: 80.8
Obviously, jobs in the public sector, such as working with politicians or think tanks, are the biggest industry here. NerdWallet notes, though, that with a median income that is significantly higher than most other cities on the list, the high cost of living is less of a burden than it would be in a city with a lower incomes.
1. Austin, Texas
Percent Change in Population: 3.8%
Median Income: $31,170
2011 Unemployment Rate: 6.2%
Cost of Living Index: 94.4
Overall Score for Job-Seekers: 85.2
Austin boasts the highest population growth with the lowest unemployment rate. That, combined with its moderately high median income and low cost of living, put it in the top spot on NerdWallet’s list.
Tech is a thriving industry in Austin, with major companies like Dell and IBM setting up headquarters there. NerdWallet notes that biotechnology is another growing industry in Austin.