The good news for this year's crop of graduating college seniors and other job seekers? The U.S. employment market has improved greatly in recent years. But there's a catch.
The national unemployment rate peaked at 10.0 percent in October of 2009, but has since receded steadily to reach a level of 3.9 percent as of April, 2018. Unemployment rates below 5.0 percent generally represent favorable environments for job seekers.
That's the good news. So what's the hitch? The U.S. job market isn't really one single job market. It is a series of local markets, each with its own unique set of characteristics. This means that while finding a job might be a breeze in one town, it may be very difficult in another.
For example, the Greater New York City area (which according to U.S. Census definitions also comprises Newark and Jersey City, NJ) added over 121,000 jobs over the past twelve months, the most in the nation. In contrast, Toledo, OH suffered the worst job losses, with a net decline of 4,600.
In terms of unemployment rate, Ames, IA has the lowest in the nation. At 1.7 percent, that rate means its a very rare thing to be unable to find a job in Ames. Unfortunately, some areas aren't so fortunate. In El Centro, CA, the unemployment rate is 15.3 percent, the highest in the nation and nine times as high as in Ames.
Clearly then, if you want to know what conditions are like as you start your job search, it depends greatly on where you are looking. To help you find the best places to find a job, MoneyRates.com ranked 389 U.S. metropolitan areas according to three criteria:
- Total job growth by city
- Percentage job growth by city
- Unemployment rate
Cities were ranked from best to worst according to each criteria, and then the average rank across all three criteria was used to determine the ten hottest job markets of 2018.
10 best cities to find a job in 2018
Here are best places to find a job this year:
- Midland, Texas. With its proximity to the oil and gas-producing Permian Basin, Midland has been well-positioned to benefit from the rebound in oil prices over the past couple years. The energy-driven economy does not necessarily mean you have to work in a related industry to benefit from this strong job market: a booming economy encourages job creation in a variety of other supporting occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Midland Texas had the highest percentage job creation over the past year out of 389 U.S. metro areas, at 9.9 percent. This also helped the city achieve one of the ten lowest unemployment rates in the nation.
- Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana. Sometimes a niche industry can spur an area to exceptionally strong growth: Elkhart is known as a center for recreational vehicle manufacturers. Though Elkhart and Goshen combine for a population of less than 100,000 people, job creation over the past year has been very strong. The area ranks fourth nationally in percentage job creation over the past year, and has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the nation.
- Austin-Round Rock, Texas. Austin is the capital of Texas, home to the University of Texas and a thriving economic and cultural center. This combined area of over 1 million people ranked in the top ten percent of metro areas for both absolute and percentage job growth over the past year, and at 3.1 percent, the unemployment rate is well below the national average.
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California. The tech boom has led this region to dynamic growth. Already a market of over 1 million jobs, this part of the Bay Area finished in the top ten percent of new jobs created in the past year, and has one of the lowest unemployment rates.
- Provo-Orem, Utah. This area created slightly over 10,000 new jobs in the past year, ranking it in the top ten percent for rate of job growth. The unemployment rate is a low 3.0 percent.
- Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado. The Rocky Mountains seem to be a fertile area for job growth lately, including this area which added 36,000 jobs in the past year, one of the highest totals in the country. Unemployment is just 2.8 percent.
- Boise City, Idaho. If you think Idaho's economy is solely based on potatoes, you may be surprised to find that a variety of national corporations have bases in Boise City. This area added over 10,000 jobs in the past year, helping it place among the best ten percent for rate of job growth and low unemployment.
- Greeley, Colorado. Thanks to Greeley, Colorado joins Texas as the only states to have two metro areas in this top ten list. Greeley was in the top 5 percent nationally for rate of job growth and low unemployment.
- Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee. This country music mecca produced over 20,000 new jobs in the past year, and has an unemployment rate of just 2.7 percent.
- Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida. This central Florida area was one of the ten biggest job producers in the nation, boosting employment by 43,700 over the past year. That was in the top ten percent for rate of job creation, and at 3.3 percent unemployment is comfortably below the national jobless rate.
Tips on searching for the best place to find a job
Does this mean that you should head off to one of these cities to find a job? Here are some things to think about before making that leap:
- Check out the job market for your specific skill set. Some cities have very well-diversified job markets, while others are dominated by one or two specific industries. Make sure there is healthy demand for your skills before you move to a new area.
- Research cost of living and other local characteristics. Large cities with thriving economies tend to be very expensive places to live. There also might be climate, cultural or other conditions which could be a problem for you. Remember, if you relocate, you don't just have to get a job in your new city, but you also have to live there.
- See whether salaries are competitive given the circumstances. Don't just pay attention to how many jobs are available - see if the wages being offered are competitive with what you could get elsewhere, and whether they adequately adjust for the cost of living and any other drawbacks of the area.
MoneyRates wishes all job-seekers the best of luck with their employment searches. Keep in mind that you can improve your luck if you look in the right places.