Study: Seattle, Phoenix, Charlotte named 'sweet spots' for jobs and housing


Tech workers looking to get the most bang for their buck in the U.S. would be wise to check out job listings in Seattle, according to a new study suggesting San Francisco's tech base misses out on thousands of dollars in disposable income each year compared with their colleagues in the Emerald City.

A joint study published Thursday by real estate hub Zillow and social networking outfit LinkedIn dubbed Seattle the "sweet spot" for tech workers – offering a wealth of job openings, competitive salaries, steady hiring trends and relatively affordable housing options.

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Seattle is regularly cited as one of America's premier destinations for tech workers, and Thursday's report from Zillow and LinkedIn suggests this trend is no accident, as the city offers an ideal combination of tech employment opportunities, high wages and manageable rental and homeownership costs.

With the city's close proximity to major employers like Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia and PayScale, Seattle-based tech workers who own their own homes end up with an average of nearly $6,000 each month after paying taxes and housing costs, according to the study.

That's nearly $1,000 more than the average tech worker in Austin, Texas – the study's second-ranking tech city – collects during a given month. Pittsburgh ended up ranking third in terms of disposable income, while the San Francisco Bay Area – situated in the country's second-lowest scoring state for housing affordability, according to the U.S. News Best States project – managed fourth.

Still, the average home-owning tech worker in Denver, for example, was found to sacrifice more than $100 in disposable income each month – due mostly to comparatively lower salaries – by choosing to live and work in Colorado as opposed to San Francisco. Denver's tech renters, meanwhile, pocketed an average of nearly $600 less than their colleagues in San Francisco did each month.

"High demand and inventory shortages have driven up housing prices in some markets so much that even if you land a great job, the salary might not cover living within commuting distance," Svenja Gudell, a chief economist at Zillow, said in a statement accompanying the report, describing the study's "sweet spots" like Seattle as "places with great job markets and housing markets that will leave you with some cash at the end of the month."

Top 10 Cities for Tech

  1. Seattle

  2. Austin, Texas

  3. Pittsburgh

  4. San Francisco Bay Area

  5. Dallas/Fort Worth

  6. Denver

  7. Charlotte, North Carolina

  8. Boston

  9. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

  10. Detroit

But housing affordability is relative, and job opportunities aren't uniform across industries. What works for tech workers in Seattle, for example, may not pan out for those working in another field. For health care workers looking to maximize job opportunities, wages and housing expenses, the study found that Phoenix is the best place to be, followed closely by Indianapolis and Boston.

Top 10 Cities for Health Care Services

  1. Phoenix

  2. Indianapolis

  3. Boston

  4. Denver

  5. Austin, Texas

  6. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

  7. Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida

  8. Seattle

  9. Pittsburgh

  10. Nashville, Tennessee

Finance workers, meanwhile, need look no further than Charlotte, North Carolina, which narrowly beat out the Dallas/Fort Worth region of Texas for the top spot. Phoenix, Boston and Chicago rounded out the top five.

Top 10 Cities for Finance

  1. Charlotte, North Carolina

  2. Dallas/Fort Worth

  3. Phoenix

  4. Boston

  5. Chicago

  6. New York City

  7. Seattle

  8. Austin, Texas

  9. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

  10. San Francisco Bay Area

Notably, West Coast cities only ranked in the top five of any industry for tech, and the San Francisco Bay Area failed to rank in any field's top three. Though job opportunities are generally considered to be good in the city, Thursday's study chalked up San Francisco's lackluster performance to the city's considerable cost of living.

"Over the past decade, housing prices in coastal markets have shot up, in large part due to demand from workers following high-paying jobs," said a press release accompanying the report. "West Coast housing affordability is the worst in the nation; renters and homeowners there often spend nearly half the median income to rent a typical home, while a rental in the middle of the country costs more like 25 percent of the median income."

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