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

1Washington, D.C.33
3Irving, Texas322
6San Francisco1811
7Austin, Texas830
9Charlotte, N.C.763
11Nashville-Davidson, Tenn.269
12St. Paul, Minn.3614
13Salt Lake City1545
14Raleigh, N.C.572
17Aurora, Colo.1061
18Jersey City, N.J.4711
19Oakland, Calif.754
20Overland Park, Kan.2940
21Tampa, Fla.2153
23Omaha, Neb.2450
24Richmond, Va.1960
25Arlington, Texas798
26Plano, Texas5625
27Fort Worth, Texas6318
28Orlando, Fla.1773
29New York5029
30San Diego3544
31Tulsa, Okla.6915
32Portland, Ore.1678
33Fremont, Calif.936
34Los Angeles5232
35Kansas City, Mo.4835
36Durham, N.C.1291
37Anchorage, Alaska5337
38Tempe, Ariz.1488
39Oklahoma City4447
40Madison, Wis.6107
41Irvine, Calif.3462
42Fort Lauderdale, Fla.4253
44San Jose, Calif.1127
45Colorado Springs, Colo.5156
T-46Columbus, Ohio3377
48Grand Prairie, Texas10310
49Pembroke Pines, Fla.9917
50New Orleans2696
51Corpus Christi, Texas10513
52Tacoma, Wash.1169
53Santa Clarita, Calif.8826
55Chandler, Ariz.6252
56Huntsville, Ala.3979
57Huntington Beach, Calif.11419
58Lexington-Fayette, Ky.13115
59Scottsdale, Ariz.5866
60Lincoln, Neb.22105
61Knoxville, Tenn.3798
62Des Moines, Iowa7753
63Grand Rapids, Mich.40101
64Little Rock, Ark.3897
65Louisville, Ky.5486
66Sioux Falls, S.D.20116
67Bakersfield, Calif.10733
68San Antonio6475
69Yonkers, N.Y.13021
70Long Beach, Calif.12822
71Gilbert, Ariz.7170
T-72Garland, Texas12228
T-72Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.10043
74Baton Rouge5693
75Worcester, Mass.10939
76Amarillo, Texas8659
78Greensboro, N.C.28134
79Glendale, Calif.12434
80Newport News, Va.11149
81St. Louis46113
82Vancouver, Wash.12040
84Aurora, Ill.7883
85Virginia Beach, Va.55110
86Peoria, Ariz.10861
87Lubbock, Texas60103
88Newark, N.J.13631
90Providence, R.I.61111
91Sacramento, Calif.8485
92Memphis, Tenn.66108
T-93Norfolk, Va.7099
T-93Boise City, Idaho45121
95Rochester, N.Y.43132
96Anaheim, Calif.13542
98Oxnard, Calif.14038
99Chesapeake, Va.11964
100Wichita, Kan.9487
101Chattanooga, Tenn.82104
102Tallahassee, Fla.24148
103Garden Grove, Calif.14915
104Fontana, Calif.13168
105Shreveport, La.68117
106Birmingham, Ala.85102
107Oceanside, Calif.13756
108Chula Vista, Calif.13958
109Buffalo, N.Y.65129
110St. Petersburg, Fla.11394
111Mobile, Ala.10499
112Springfield, Mo.72122
113Glendale, Ariz.12184
114Albuquerque, N.M.73124
115Santa Ana, Calif.14548
116Jacksonville, Fla.81123
117Winston-Salem, N.C.59140
118Santa Rosa, Calif.12789
119Spokane, Wash.95112
120Henderson, Nev.74133
121Cape Coral, Fla.13479
122Montgomery, Ala.91118
123El Paso, Texas13395
124Mesa, Ariz.13881
125Jackson, Miss.92125
126Hialeah, Fla.15046
127Reno, Nev.76142
129Moreno Valley, Calif.14192
130Brownsville, Texas14490
131Fort Wayne, Ind.86137
132Las Vegas98135
134Fresno, Calif.132114
135Toledo, Ohio115130
136North Las Vegas, Nev.122127
137Laredo, Texas118131
138Tucson, Ariz.117136
139Augusta, Ga.102141
140Ontario, Calif.143109
141Riverside, Calif.128128
143Fayetteville, N.C.101147
144Columbus, Ga.89150
146Akron, Ohio125144
147San Bernardino, Calif.148126
148Stockton, Calif.141138
149Port St. Lucie, Fla.146139
150Modesto, Calif.147146

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,, the Equality of Opportunity Project, and WalletHub research.

The article The Best and Worst Cities for Starting a Career originally appeared on

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