With the employment picture still bleak in some major metropolitan areas, job seekers might be tempted to run off to the cities with the healthiest employment numbers–but low unemployment doesn’t always mean it’s the best place for finding a job.
While cities with low unemployment might be the easiest areas for some to land a job, there may be little diversity in the industries hiring, the cost of living can be high, and the required skill sets can be too specific.
The recruiting firm Ajilon Professional Staffing looked at the U.S. cities with the fullest employment, according to the Department of Labor, and then determined which areas are the best for finding a job. The ranking reflects considerations such as: the diversity of industries in the city, the cost of living, the range in size of companies offering employment, and high level of education among its residents. All those factors were weighed equally.
The top spot goes to Minneapolis, where the unemployment rate is 6.5 percent. From December 2009 to December 2010, the unemployment level dropped by .7 percent, indicating that an already strong market is improving.
“The reason why Minneapolis is at the top of the list is a combination of factors,” says Jodi Chavez, senior vice president of Ajilon. “First and foremost, the city records the lowest unemployment rate of all the cities in the ranking, brought about by the large companies in financial services, health care, retail and manufacturing that have picked up their hiring activities.”
The Minneapolis-St.Paul metropolitan area has several large medical device manufacturers, Chazez says, and they seemed to weather the economic downturn with a minimal impact on staff levels. “In fact, this sector continues to add jobs,” she says. “As hiring has picked up, companies in this market are also showing demand for highly specialized positions like specialty tax, IT audit or compliance-related jobs that were not available during the recession.”
The diversity of industries isn’t the only quality that makes Minneapolis the best city for finding employment. “The quality of life in Minneapolis overall also tends to be high,” Chavez says. “The city has low crime rates and poverty rates and relatively low cost of living while being one of the major metropolitan centers of the Midwest. The Minneapolis–St. Paul market is in somewhat of a sweet spot of offering jobs with relatively high pay while having a low cost of living.”
Austin, Texas, which holds the No. 2 spot, also stands out for its low cost of living, varied-size companies and diverse talent pool. The eclectic capital city has become an alternative to Silicon Valley, Chavez says. “Silicon Valley has a high cost of living, so a lot of tech companies are moving to Austin.” And it doesn’t hurt that Austin is home to the University of Texas and many other higher education institutions.
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Businesses in college towns often recruit locally, knowing that there are plenty of educated, talented candidates in the area.
Another college town with a high level of educated workers is No. 4, Boston. “There are a lot of start-ups,” Chavez says of the city and its emerging entrepreneurial scene. Boston’s unemployment level dropped from 8.3 percent in 2009 to 7.1 percent in 2010, thanks to growth at nonprofits, financial services firms, and health care companies.
“Health care is one of the most job-healthy industries across the board,” says Chavez. Information technology and software engineering are also strong fields throughout most major U.S. metro areas.
© 2012 Forbes.com