A strong economy with a low 3.6 percent unemployment rate means better job prospects for Americans, including college grads. But not all cities are equal when it comes to the best job opportunities.
The personal finance website WalletHub did an analysis of 182 American cities and found that Scottsdale, Arizona was the No. 1 locale for job seekers, while Detroit, Michigan came in dead last.
The survey was based on 31 “key indicators” ranging from job openings to the average starting salary.
The survey also included information from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which found that 5.9 percent more members of the class of 2020 would be hired compared to the previous year’s graduates.
Rounding out the Top 10, in order, are South Burlington, Vermont; San Francisco, California; Austin, Texas; Fremont, California; Chandler, Arizona; Boston, Massachusetts; Tempe, Arizona; Portland, Main; and Boise, Idaho.
The worst cities, according to the survey, from 173 to Detroit at 182 are Cleveland, Ohio; Anchorage, Alaska; Gulfport, Mississippi; Toledo, Ohio; Huntington, West Virginia; Brownsville, Texas; Stockton, California; Newark, New Jersey; and Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Some other best and worst highlights from the survey include:
• Gilbert, Arizona, has the highest median annual household income (adjusted by cost of living), $89,903, which is 3.4 times higher than in Hialeah, Florida, the city with the lowest at $26,281.
• San Jose, California, has the highest monthly average starting salary, $6,019, which is 3.2 times higher than in Brownsville, Texas, the city with the lowest at $1,876.
• South Burlington, Vermont, has the lowest unemployment rate, 1.70 percent, which is 5.3 times lower than in Detroit, the city with the highest at 9.00 percent.
• Fremont, California, has the lowest share of workers living in poverty, 1.84 percent, which is 10.3 times lower than in Huntington, West Virginia, the city with the highest at 18.86
In an editorial in the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney points out that the key is education when it comes to where one can find the best job opportunities. He cites a study from Philip Hoxie, Daniel Shoag, and Stan Veuger at the American Enterprise Institute:
In short, the study finds that a person with no college education is bound to find life less affordable if he moves to a high-density or a high-productivity city because higher housing costs outstrip higher wages in such places.
“The urban wage premium for low-skilled workers declined between 1970 and 2015,” the authors note, citing MIT economist David Autor. That is, moving to a big city doesn’t increase a blue-collar worker’s pay as much as it used to. But guess what has increased? The urban housing-cost premium.
The AEI scholars calculated wages-minus-housing-cost over time for different demographics in different types of cities. In 1970 and 1980, a more dense location meant better wages-minus-housing for both college-educated and non-college-educated adults. Today, denser places are a good deal for the college-educated, but they’re a bad deal for non-college folks. More importantly, this is true on the score of economic productivity, if this study’s methods are sound. The salary premium of the most productive places in the U.S. is smaller for non-college workers than is the living cost premium.
“It looks like someone wanting to help the struggling workingman in Youngstown, Ohio, will need to offer better advice than ‘just move to a thriving city,’” Carney concluded. “Also, it looks like booming cities need to clear away obstacles to new housing.”
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