What’s the best city in the U.S. for job seekers?
It’s a difficult question to answer. After all, every job seeker is unique: For some, there’s no place like home, while for others the grass may always be greener elsewhere. That said, there are several key considerations most of us would agree are important, and today more data than ever is available to help us understand just how these factors combine to make a city stand out as a great place to live and work.
So what is the best city for job seekers? To find out, we asked four questions:
- How favorable is the local labor market to the job seeker?
- What’s the average salary, once adjusted for cost of living?
- How high do employers score for work-life balance in Indeed’s review database?
- How high do employers score for job security and advancement opportunities in Indeed’s review database?
After analyzing the data for the 50 metro areas with the most postings on Indeed, we calculated a percentile score for each key consideration. Next, our data science team did some serious number crunching, allowing us to synthesize all these results into a single Indeed City Score. The result? Indeed’s first ever list of best cities for job seekers.
Keep on the sunny side — southern metros dominate the best cities list
Here’s some good news for job seekers: Blue skies are common in our best cities list. Florida is home to three cities in the top ten, including first place Miami, second place Orlando and seventh place Jacksonville. We also see two cities from Texas (Austin, Houston), three from California (Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego) as well as Raleigh, North Carolina and Memphis, Tennessee. In fact, all of the top 15 metros on the list are in the south and west regions of the country.
This strong showing for the Sun Belt is particularly interesting when viewed in the light of census data, which shows that this region is home to many of the fastest growing cities in the nation. As Indeed Senior VP Paul D’Arcy observes: “The Sun Belt continues to be a region of high-growth and opportunity as companies and workers alike have moved toward strong job markets.”
It’s not all blue skies and hot climes, however: our list of best cities also has some options for those who prefer a cooler climate. For instance, rainy Seattle places 17th with a particularly strong performance for salary, while in the Northeast, Hartford, Connecticut comes 18th, and Providence, Rhode Island places 21st.
In the table below we highlight the top 25 best cities in the US for job seekers. Job seeker favorability reflects the degree of “mismatch” — where the ratio of job postings from employers to clicks from candidates is in favor of the latter, while the other criteria are self-explanatory. The percentile scores show how the cities stack up against each other (for example, 80th percentile means a city scored better than 80 percent of its competitors) while the Indeed City Score sums up each metro’s overall performance. After the table, we take a closer look at the top cities.
Spotlighting the cities
Miami, FL has the highest ranking overall for work-life balance and job security and advancement, and a strong showing for job market favorability, scoring better than most of the other cities on the list. There is a downside, however — a dollar doesn’t stretch as far as in most of the other cities we looked at.
Major employers with headquarters or regional centers in Miami include cruise line giant Carnival and home building firm Lennar. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the biggest major industry is trade, transport and utilities, followed by professional and business services. Job seekers with skills in these areas, take note!
Orlando, FL outperforms 98% of other cities (including Miami) for job market favorability, and also has some of the highest scores for work-life balance and job security and advancement. However, it shares the same drawback as Miami — a dollar doesn’t go quite as far here as in many of our other cities.
For many, Orlando will conjure up images of theme parks and resorts, and according to the BLS, the city’s biggest industry is leisure and hospitality. It should be no surprise, then, that The Walt Disney Company and restaurant chain operator Darden both have a significant presence in the area. Even so, the second largest industry is trade (followed by transport), so opportunities are diverse.
Raleigh, NC has the friendliest labor market for job seekers of all the cities on the list, and also performs well salary-wise. In fact, the city’s strong showing in these areas does a lot to lift the overall score and compensate for weaker rankings when it comes to work life balance and job advancement and security.
Austin, TX was the fastest growing metro in the nation between 2011 and 2014, according to census data. Here scores were strongest for job market favorability and work life balance, and it is the first city in our list to land above the fiftieth percentile for each measure.
Austin is a major tech hub, and firms including Apple, Dell and — yes — Indeed all have headquarters or major regional offices here. Even so, the city is also the Texas state capitol and government remains Austin’s biggest major industry, according to BLS data.
Sacramento, CA is the highest-placing city from the Golden State. This may be surprising to some, as there are considerably fewer “unicorns” located here than in San Jose or San Francisco — but it performs well across all our measures, while scoring particularly highly for work-life balance and salary.
As the state capitol, the major industry here is government — in fact, this accounts for nearly 25% of all employment in Sacramento! That said, it is also a regional center for a diverse array of companies, ranging from tech giant Intel to publishing firm The McClatchy Company.
Strikingly absent from the list are the great metropolises of New York and Chicago, as well as cities from the manufacturing-heavy Midwest. This also chimes with recent census data that shows people are staying away from the places that in previous decades provided opportunities to so many.
In fact, in recent years big cities such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo — also missing from our list — have actually experienced slight drops in population. Nor do we see cities such as St. Louis or Milwaukee, where the population is more or less standing still. That said, Memphis hasn’t seen much growth either, but it still makes our top ten.
As Indeed Senior VP Paul D’Arcy observes, “Manufacturing jobs have steadily declined over the years and haven’t shown promise for career growth like a generation ago.” As a result, the states where they used to be concentrated “are working to diversify their economy to attract workers and keep talent in their state.”
So yesterday’s best city for people in search of opportunities is not today’s — and over time, this list too will change. But in 2017, these are Indeed’s best cities for job seekers in the United States.
In our best cities analysis we ranked the 50 metro areas with the most job postings on Indeed based on their performance across four different indicators: job market favorability, salary, work life balance, and job security and advancement. Job market favorability is the ratio of the share of US job seekers who clicked on a job posting in each metro area / the share of US job postings in each metro area. The smaller the ratio the more favorable the job market is for job seekers. Salaries were calculated by finding the unweighted average salary for a bucket of job titles based on salaries attached to indeed job posting. We then adjusted these salaries to account for cost of living differences using BEA’s regional price parities which allows for a more fair comparison across metro areas. The work life balance and job security and advancement scores are both based on average review scores that job seekers submitted while reviewing their workplaces on Indeed’s company pages.
To bring all four measures together into one score we calculated the standard score (sc= (x-mean)/standard_dev) for each measure. This normalized the data so we could then sum the standard scores for each of the four variables and end up with one value for each city. Finally, we rescaled the final values from 0-100 where the mean value equates to 50 for easier comprehension of the dataset.