Career Advice, In the News

Where Are The Jobs? Go West, Young Man – Just Not Too Far West

If you’re considering relocating to cities with more job opportunities, consider several cities in the Plains States — including Lincoln, Neb, Fargo N.D and Sioux Falls, S.D. All boast jobless rates below 5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Seven of the nine metro areas with the lowest unemployment rates in the country can be found in North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, the BLS reported last week. And all the Plains cities except Grand Forks also experienced very low (below 5.0 percent) jobless rates a year ago when the economy was much rockier.

The heartland economic strength also can be seen also in job growth data; the highest levels of gains in August were St. Joseph, Mo., Manhattan, Kan., and Missoula, Mont. – each with 6 percent or more jobs than a year ago.

Of course, major cities including Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. created more new jobs – net gains of 20,000 to 36,000 over the 12 months.  Washington, D.C. also has been at or near the top of the rankings of cities based on a ratio of job seekers to available openings. Its latest ratio is 1.21 compared to a national average of about 4.5 job seekers per opening.

That’s because D.C. has so many government jobs, said Brendan Cruickshank, a vice present of the job search engine. Yet he said he’d probably relocate to San Jose, Calif., if he were ever to move. “There’s an abundant number of jobs in my area,” he said.  Research openings you could qualify for and possibly land in the region you’re considering. “That can vary significantly from city to city when you check specific job openings in your field,” said Cruickshank.

Here are some other economic measures to consider before packing your belongings and relocating:

  • The BLS monthly metro employment report gives you the unemployment rate, and some sense of whether jobs are being added or subtracted. State labor departments will offer more detailed data.  Or for state overviews, the Economic Policy Institute has a fast look.
  •’s monthly report, launched a year ago, gives insights on how competitive the job market is for the 50 largest U.S. cities.  The worst ones – Miami, Las Vegas and Detroit – have eight to nine candidates for every opening.
  • Look for cities that have several sectors of strength.  Cruickshank and I agree that cities with major universities and hospitals are good prospects. He also likes state capitols because of their plethora of government jobs and noted that most have better hiring prospects for individuals.  That could help explain the very strong job growth in Boston and Austin, Texas.

Some exceptions to the look west for opportunity trend show up in California, which has nine of the 12 metro areas with jobless rates of at least 15 percent.  Las Vegas looks like a risky bet for employment too. But a handful of East Coast cities – especially Portsmouth, NH, and Burlington, VT – have better fortunes and jobless rates that are half the national average. They may be moving material.