Even though the U.S. unemployment rate is much better than it was a few years ago, some places are much better for job-seekers than others.
If you're a new graduate, career changer, or just on the lookout for a new opportunity, it makes sense to seek out the best job markets, and there are definitely some good ones all over the country. With unemployment rates well below the national average of 6.5%, here are five of the best metropolitan areas to consider when searching for a new job:
1.) Honolulu, Hawaii (3.8% unemployment)
Almost one million people live in the metropolitan area of Hawaii's state capital, and who can blame them? It's hard to find better weather or a more beautiful place. Honolulu's economy is highly dependent on tourism, which brings about $10 billion per year into the local economy.
Before you buy a plane ticket and head to Hawaii to find a job, consider that the cost of living is astronomically high. In fact, Honolulu is the second priciest rental market in the country, with the average three-bedroom home renting for $2,700 per month. One of the reasons for the very low unemployment rate is that unless people have a job (or two), they simply can't afford to live there!
2.) Salt Lake City, Utah (3.5%)
The Salt Lake City metro area is home to almost 1.2 million people and has beautiful mountain views. The economy of SLC is service-based, with government, trade, transportation, and utilities being the largest industries. There are several large companies based in the metro area, including Huntsman Corporation (Fortune 500), Zions Bancorporation, and Overstock.com. The low unemployment rate has caused people to take notice, and SLC is now the fifth fastest-growing city in the United States.
3.) Sioux Falls, South Dakota (3.1%)
The Sioux Falls metro area is the largest in South Dakota and has grown by 22% since 2000, now home to almost 240,000 people. South Dakota has no state corporate income tax, which has attracted the headquarters of many large employers, especially financial companies such as Wells Fargo.
Also, because Sioux Falls is a long distance from other major cities, it has become a major center for health care, shopping, and dining. It is no wonder that Forbes has named Sioux Falls the "Best Small Place For Business And Careers" for five different years since 2005.
4.) Lincoln, Nebraska (3.1%)
The second most populous city in Nebraska, Lincoln's metro area is home to just over 300,000 people. The largest employers are the state government and education, but there are booming service industries such as medicine, banking, and call centers, and the city is experiencing very nice growth in the information industry. Lincoln was Forbes' number four "Place for Business and Careers" in 2013, and I'd be willing to bet they will rank as high or higher this year if the employment situation keeps improving as it has been.
5.) Burlington, Vermont (3.1%)
Even though Burlington is the largest city in Vermont, it is home to just over 42,000 people. The greater metro area's population is about 213,000, giving Burlington claim to the best unemployment rate in any metro with more than 200,000 people. Burlington's economy is mostly based on education, health care, trade, and transportation, and a lot of major corporations are headquartered here. Ben & Jerry's, Bruegger's, and restaurant equipment maker G.S. Blodgett Company are based in Burlington, and General Electric develops health care software in the city.
Foolish final thoughts
This is not an exhaustive list, and as mentioned, only lists those metropolitan areas with populations greater than 200,000 people. The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains a full list of every metro area in the United States, and you can see the full statistics here.
While a low unemployment rate isn't a guarantee of job availability, it definitely tips the odds in your favor, and depending on what area of the country you'd like to end up on, this list is a pretty good way to start your search, or at least will give you some ideas of what to look for in your next hometown.