In a climate of economic change, young employment seekers should closely consider the market status of the cities where they apply for jobs.
According to Janice Madden, professor of regional science, sociology, urban studies and real estate, “in the end, you want to locate yourself where you find a good job. And you could find a good job for yourself where other people aren’t finding jobs.”
She added that the process of locating appropriate cities or regions for a job hunt is “much more idiosyncratic than can be thought about if you’re going to rank” best and worst cities for young job seekers.
“There are definitely metropolitan areas that are expanding faster than others,” Madden said. “If it’s an expanding economy, there are more jobs opening up.” But more job availability does not necessarily translate to more opportunities for college graduates.
Miami, for example, has a very strong growth economy — around 5 percent in the past two years — but the positions that are available and being filled are mostly in service industries.
“Larger cities do tend to have concentrations of poor neighborhoods that have lots of young people who have been poorly educated and are having difficulty” finding jobs, Madden said. This leads to ambiguous lists of the “best” and “worst” cities for job seekers, she added.
“These lists of top-ten best or worst make little sense because there’s so much that differs for any one individual situation,” she said.
What does matter, according to both Madden and Director of Career Services Pat Rose, is the presence of a “thick” job market — a market in which there are many different potential employers with jobs in your field, meaning that “if things don’t work out with an individual employer, you’ve got places to go,” Madden said.
“If you go to a region or city with lots of employment like yours, you can ‘go across the street’ instead of relocating if your initial plans fall through,” Rose added.
Madden and Rose did dole out a few generalizations — some obvious, others less so — of cities and regions that are strong markets for particular fields.
For tech, San Francisco is the place to be. This includes both technical and business positions in the field. New York, Seattle and Austin also have strong tech industries. Finance is based in New York — according to Rose, New York is “number one, number two, and number three” for finance. Biotech is strongest in Boston, health care strongest in Philadelphia, and oil and energy strongest in Houston.
In choosing where to start a job search, Rose emphasized that the importance of region depends on the person. “Sometimes picking a city helps clarify your search,” Rose said. “But location is just one part of the calculus.”
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