All told, the US job market is in relatively good shape right now – the national unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent last month, and the economy gained back all of the jobs it lost during the Great Recession months ago. But for workers still looking to land great new jobs, not all parts of the country are created equal, according to a study released Monday by NerdWallet.
The personal finance website analyzed employment rate, cost of living, income level, and population growth in 100 US cities. According to the results, Lincoln, Neb., is the best city for employment seekers in the country. In addition to a 2.3 percent unemployment rate, Lincoln boasts a low cost of living (residents pay a median $722 a month in rent) and major employers, including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, BNSF Railway, and several major medical centers.
The study ranked cities based on a combination of employment rates, median incomes, cost of living (as measured by median monthly rent payments), and growth of the working age population over the last five years. Cities in the middle of the country tended to rank high; college towns, including Columbus, Ohio and Austin, Texas, also fared well.
On the flip side, coastal cities, with their high costs of living and low population growth (because there are already so many people living there), didn’t fare well. “It was initially somewhat surprising to see just how poorly cities in California did,” Sreekar Jashri, the analyst who compiled the data, wrote via e-mail. “Fremont is the highest city from the state on our list at 26th, while San Francisco ranked 44th. Diving further into the numbers, though, it becomes clear why these cities aren't higher – the workforce growth in many of these places isn't as high and while income levels tend to be higher in California's cities, affordability is also much lower."
Job prospects, of course, aren’t the only reasons Americans relocate. But there’s growing evidence that workers, especially young ones, are letting economic factors like employment and cost of living determine where they end up, and that has potential to change the population makeup of the country overall. For example, 2013 migration data from the US Census found that California and New York – historically two of the most popular landing spots for people moving from one state to another – ranked last in terms of state-by-state migrations. “States and cities that have typically been popular in past decades aren't necessarily as lucrative for job seekers any more, while places that are home to stronger local economies have become more attractive," Mr. Jashri writes.
For the full city rankings and details on methodology, visit the NerdWallet study here.