The Best and Worst Cities for Starting a Career

While the struggles America's youth have endured in recent years pale in comparison with those of their peers in Spain and Greece, where youth unemployment rates in excess of 50% have spawned great social unrest, finding a job, let alone laying the foundation for a long and prosperous career, is far from simple in the current economic climate. With many employers adopting a wait-and-see approach to both the economic recovery and Obamacare, and with many young people refusing to adjust expectations in the face of stiff competition, the effective unemployment rate for Americans ages 18-29 is 15.5%.

There is nevertheless reason for optimism among the graduating class of 2014, as well as the scores of young people who have become so disillusioned with the job market that they have given up their search for employment. Not only do more employers plan to hire recent college grads this year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, but hiring in general is also on the rise.

Increased hiring obviously doesn't guarantee employment, though. Young people still must learn how to maximize their employability. In addition to customizing cover letters and making social-media accounts safe for work, that could very well entail finding a new place to live and work.

While Americans in their 20s are now 40% less likely to move than they were 30 years ago, according to U.S. Census data, employment opportunities do vary significantly based on simple geography. So, to help recent college graduates find the best cradles for their burgeoning careers, WalletHub analyzed the 150 largest cities in the U.S. to determine the relative strength of their job markets, the attractiveness of their social scenes, and various other factors that are important to new job market entrants. A complete breakdown of our findings and additional information about the methodology we used to conduct this study follows.

Source: WalletHub.

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Overall Rank

City Name

Quality of Life Rank

Professional Opportunities Rank

1 Washington, D.C. 3 3
2 Denver 9 5
3 Irving, Texas 32 2
4 Seattle 4 20
5 Minneapolis 11 24
6 San Francisco 18 11
7 Austin, Texas 8 30
8 Dallas 27 27
9 Charlotte, N.C. 7 63
10 Houston 30 23
11 Nashville-Davidson, Tenn. 2 69
12 St. Paul, Minn. 36 14
13 Salt Lake City 15 45
14 Raleigh, N.C. 5 72
15 Pittsburgh 10 65
16 Atlanta 1 106
17 Aurora, Colo. 106 1
18 Jersey City, N.J. 47 11
19 Oakland, Calif. 75 4
20 Overland Park, Kan. 29 40
21 Tampa, Fla. 21 53
22 Boston 23 51
23 Omaha, Neb. 24 50
24 Richmond, Va. 19 60
25 Arlington, Texas 79 8
26 Plano, Texas 56 25
27 Fort Worth, Texas 63 18
28 Orlando, Fla. 17 73
29 New York 50 29
30 San Diego 35 44
31 Tulsa, Okla. 69 15
32 Portland, Ore. 16 78
33 Fremont, Calif. 93 6
34 Los Angeles 52 32
35 Kansas City, Mo. 48 35
36 Durham, N.C. 12 91
37 Anchorage, Alaska 53 37
38 Tempe, Ariz. 14 88
39 Oklahoma City 44 47
40 Madison, Wis. 6 107
41 Irvine, Calif. 34 62
42 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 42 53
43 Cincinnati 31 74
44 San Jose, Calif. 112 7
45 Colorado Springs, Colo. 51 56
T-46 Columbus, Ohio 33 77
T-46 Miami 67 35
48 Grand Prairie, Texas 103 10
49 Pembroke Pines, Fla. 99 17
50 New Orleans 26 96
51 Corpus Christi, Texas 105 13
52 Tacoma, Wash. 116 9
53 Santa Clarita, Calif. 88 26
54 Chicago 49 67
55 Chandler, Ariz. 62 52
56 Huntsville, Ala. 39 79
57 Huntington Beach, Calif. 114 19
58 Lexington-Fayette, Ky. 13 115
59 Scottsdale, Ariz. 58 66
60 Lincoln, Neb. 22 105
61 Knoxville, Tenn. 37 98
62 Des Moines, Iowa 77 53
63 Grand Rapids, Mich. 40 101
64 Little Rock, Ark. 38 97
65 Louisville, Ky. 54 86
66 Sioux Falls, S.D. 20 116
67 Bakersfield, Calif. 107 33
68 San Antonio 64 75
69 Yonkers, N.Y. 130 21
70 Long Beach, Calif. 128 22
71 Gilbert, Ariz. 71 70
T-72 Garland, Texas 122 28
T-72 Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. 100 43
74 Baton Rouge 56 93
75 Worcester, Mass. 109 39
76 Amarillo, Texas 86 59
77 Phoenix 80 71
78 Greensboro, N.C. 28 134
79 Glendale, Calif. 124 34
80 Newport News, Va. 111 49
81 St. Louis 46 113
82 Vancouver, Wash. 120 40
83 Indianapolis 41 120
84 Aurora, Ill. 78 83
85 Virginia Beach, Va. 55 110
86 Peoria, Ariz. 108 61
87 Lubbock, Texas 60 103
88 Newark, N.J. 136 31
89 Philadelphia 90 76
90 Providence, R.I. 61 111
91 Sacramento, Calif. 84 85
92 Memphis, Tenn. 66 108
T-93 Norfolk, Va. 70 99
T-93 Boise City, Idaho 45 121
95 Rochester, N.Y. 43 132
96 Anaheim, Calif. 135 42
97 Baltimore 96 82
98 Oxnard, Calif. 140 38
99 Chesapeake, Va. 119 64
100 Wichita, Kan. 94 87
101 Chattanooga, Tenn. 82 104
102 Tallahassee, Fla. 24 148
103 Garden Grove, Calif. 149 15
104 Fontana, Calif. 131 68
105 Shreveport, La. 68 117
106 Birmingham, Ala. 85 102
107 Oceanside, Calif. 137 56
108 Chula Vista, Calif. 139 58
109 Buffalo, N.Y. 65 129
110 St. Petersburg, Fla. 113 94
111 Mobile, Ala. 104 99
112 Springfield, Mo. 72 122
113 Glendale, Ariz. 121 84
114 Albuquerque, N.M. 73 124
115 Santa Ana, Calif. 145 48
116 Jacksonville, Fla. 81 123
117 Winston-Salem, N.C. 59 140
118 Santa Rosa, Calif. 127 89
119 Spokane, Wash. 95 112
120 Henderson, Nev. 74 133
121 Cape Coral, Fla. 134 79
122 Montgomery, Ala. 91 118
123 El Paso, Texas 133 95
124 Mesa, Ariz. 138 81
125 Jackson, Miss. 92 125
126 Hialeah, Fla. 150 46
127 Reno, Nev. 76 142
128 Honolulu 110 119
129 Moreno Valley, Calif. 141 92
130 Brownsville, Texas 144 90
131 Fort Wayne, Ind. 86 137
132 Las Vegas 98 135
133 Milwaukee 83 145
134 Fresno, Calif. 132 114
135 Toledo, Ohio 115 130
136 North Las Vegas, Nev. 122 127
137 Laredo, Texas 118 131
138 Tucson, Ariz. 117 136
139 Augusta, Ga. 102 141
140 Ontario, Calif. 143 109
141 Riverside, Calif. 128 128
142 Cleveland 97 149
143 Fayetteville, N.C. 101 147
144 Columbus, Ga. 89 150
145 Detroit 126 143
146 Akron, Ohio 125 144
147 San Bernardino, Calif. 148 126
148 Stockton, Calif. 141 138
149 Port St. Lucie, Fla. 146 139
150 Modesto, Calif. 147 146

Methodology
WalletHub analyzed and ranked the 150 most populous cities in the United States based on the following 18 metrics, which were designed to collectively represent most of the issues that young people have in mind when looking for a place to put down roots, from professional opportunities to the odds of finding a mate. The two following overall categories, however, were intended for organizational purposes only. In other words, they were used to group the metrics but were not taken into account when deciding the weight assigned to each metric.

Quality of life

  • Average annual income, adjusted for cost of living: 1
  • Arts, leisure, and recreation establishments per 100,000 inhabitants: 1
  • Percentage of the population ages 25-34: 1
  • Mating opportunities (share of population that has never been married): 1
  • Strength of social ties: 1
  • Percentage of the population with a bachelor's degree or higher: 1
  • Population growth: 0.5
  • Average two-bedroom rent: 0.5
  • Housing costs: 0.5

Professional opportunities

  • Number of entry-level jobs per 100,000 inhabitants: 1
  • Monthly median starting salary: 1
  • Technology jobs as a percentage of total city employment: 1
  • Annual job growth, adjusted for population growth: 1
  • Median income growth rate: 1
  • Economic mobility: 1
  • Workforce diversity: 1
  • Current unemployment rate: 0.5
  • Entrepreneurial activity: 0.5

Sources: The information used to construct this report is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Sharecare, Indeed.com, the Equality of Opportunity Project, and WalletHub research.


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