Best Cities for Jobs
Austin is 2010’s best city for job growth, thanks to its favorable business climate, growing clean energy and technology initiatives, and collaboration between university and business researchers.
Ranking cities for their job markets isn’t an exact science. And that may be why there’s plenty of disagreement about which cities have enough job openings to earn a spot below the Texas capital on lists of best cities for jobs.
Most economists agree the cities with the best employment opportunities have diversified economies, high-wage employers and well-educated workforces.
They also agree that you have to be careful when reviewing lists of where to find a job because some areas have boom-and-bust cycles that make them hot one year and cold the next. (Is anyone moving to Las Vegas this year?) Judge a city based on a single year’s data, and you could end up moving there only to find yourself seeking work in a declining local economy two years later.
Everybody Loves Austin
Among the economists, researchers and other best-cities rankers who put Austin at No. 1:
- NewGeography.com’s Joel Kotkin, who writes Forbes’ “Best Places for Jobs” list. Kotkin says the best large cities/regions for job growth are: Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Northern Virginia and Dallas. However, Kotkin called this year’s list the most depressing in a decade because so few cities had growth except those boosted by federal tax dollars.
- Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine’s “10 Best Cities for the Next Decade.” The magazine says the best cities are Austin; Seattle; Washington, DC; Boulder; and Salt Lake City.
- The Milken Institute’s “Best-Performing Cities 2009: Where America’s Jobs Are Created and Sustained.” Milken’s top five cities are: Austin; Fort Hood, Texas; Salt Lake City; McAllen, Texas; and Houston.
- Portfolio.com’s “Small Business Vitality Rankings 2010.” Its top five are: Austin; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Raleigh, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and Portland, Maine.
Seattle Best City for Jobs?
Not all economists put Austin at No. 1. William Fruth, president of Policom, a Palm City, Florida, firm that analyzes local economies, puts Seattle at the top, followed by Washington, DC; Denver; Houston; and Sacramento, California. Curiously, Austin is only 12th on Fruth’s list.
Fruth says his list differs because he considers 20 years worth of data for his “Economic Strength Rankings -- 2010.” He also considers negative factors in his ranking, such as large welfare populations or a large proportion of low-wage service and retail jobs.
Two of Fruth’s top five cities -- No. 2 Washington, DC, and No. 5 Sacramento -- don’t fit the diversified economy rule, but they’re government-centered economies dominated by well-paying public-sector jobs.
Best Job Markets in the Future
Before you pack up and move to Austin or any other place on a best-cities list, make sure your new hometown is going to be creating jobs tomorrow, too.
“You don’t want to just look at where the jobs are going today, but where the quality high tech jobs are being created,” says Armen Bedroussian, Milken research economist and coauthor of the best-performing cities report. “Metros with a higher concentration of high tech industries are able to weather economic storms better.”
How do you know a city is good at growing jobs? Look for these signs:
- Tech companies are moving there.
- Universities and research parks collaborate with the local business community.
- The political climate is business-friendly.
- There’s a high concentration of entrepreneurs.
- A large proportion of the residents have a bachelor’s degrees or higher.
Best Regions for Jobs
If you don’t want to limit yourself to a particular city, seek out work in one of the two areas of the country where economists are predicting job growth: the West and the Southeast.
“That’s a trend that has gone on for decades, and there is no reason it won’t continue,” says Lee McPheters, research professor of economics and director of the Economic Outlook Center at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business in Tempe, Arizona.
Texas has already recovered from the economic crisis, and Western states such as Arizona, Nevada, Washington and Utah will do the same within two to three years, he predicts.
“In the Southeast, it is the same,” McPheters says, “Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and even Florida will again be the strongest labor markets, but that recovery is not immediately on the horizon.”