Careers

Attention New College Grads: Here's Where the Jobs Are

Zippia.com

The euphoria of college graduation may be wearing off by now. If you’re not headed to graduate school or some other extension of your education, you’re probably looking for employment to generate income to pay your student loans and have some fun.

You’re also looking for that income to provide you with independence. Although recent news reports have painted a rather surprising picture about how many young people, especially newly-minted college graduates, are living at home with their parents, you’re probably of the mind to “get out of Dodge” and become your own standalone person.


Deciding on where to look for work is a lot like looking for colleges, as you did when you were in high school. You no doubt have a list of preferences concerning the types of work you would like, where you would like that work to be and a general idea of how much you would like that first job to pay.

A subset of these preferences might include what type of housing you would like and whether to live alone or find a roommate or two to share expenses. You can deal with the other smaller decisions as you go along.

Some of you may already be employed, having worked internships during your college years and now fully segued into a full-time position with your company. That’s great and shows the value of interning while a student.

The majority of new grads, however, are no doubt currently looking for work since graduation was barely a month ago, during mid-spring. This is the group that may benefit the most from the latest information I’ve received about where the best places are to look for that first job.

Go West?

Once again, my friends at Zippia.com have come through with rankings that satisfy a number of needs. The Best Job Markets for 2018 survey is solid gold for those of you who are willing to explore America and not be tied down to specific geographic regions. If you are flexible and somewhat adventurous, this information is for you.

It’s certainly understandable that some of you may not be as free as others to explore job opportunities far from home. Sometimes the reality of life’s circumstances overrules our ambitions. Maybe you need to stay close to your home for family reasons. Maybe you feel that your local network there is strong enough to provide what you need for work.

Or, maybe you just like living where you grew up and want to make the best of what your hometown region has to offer. That’s perfectly fine. But, for those of you who are otherwise unbound from one geographic spot, this list of promising job locales may be just what you need. Let’s take a look.

McLeod Brown authors these Zippia surveys. I always enjoy his easy way with words and his touches of humor. Looking for work is a full-time job in itself, so it helps to have a lighthearted outlook --- most of the time. I’ve been on the job hunt many times during my many decades and, trust me, being able to generate a laugh or two along the way can help. Anyway, here’s part of Mr. Brown’s intro:

Although wishful thinking allows us to imagine how great it’d be to get paid for doing nothing, the stats don’t lie – you need to work to make money. Unless you’re the Kardashians, maybe?

Either way, with the economy roaring and the job market being the best it's been in some time, we wanted to delve into the metro areas that are the best job markets for those seeking work.

Good news is the best job markets are pretty spread out – West Coast, South, Midwest – they’re all over. So you don’t need to already be living in California to exclusively reap the rewards of a healthy local economy....

As with any listings of “best” things, be they colleges, cars or canteens, the methodology for determining those bests is important. Here’s how these best job markets were selected:

To find the metros with the best job markets in the country, one could look at their unemployment rate to gain a general understanding of if that place is good to work or not. But we thought that’s too simplistic and surface-level.

Credit goes to the always reliable Bureau of Labor Statistics for the data.

Looking at 386 different metro areas, we ranked each one to 386 in three categories – wage change, unemployment rate change, and current unemployment rate – one being best, 386 being worst.

The average of the three numbers was then used to produce a final ranking of each metro area. The lower number the average, the better job market.

Read on for a closer look at the top 10 metros, then a list of the top 100 at the bottom.

Here’s a quick peek at the Top 10. I ’ll follow that with some brief detail about a few of them.

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

2. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, Calif.

3. Odessa, Texas

4. Midland, Texas

5. Charleston-North Charleston, S.C.

6. Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, Va.

7. Florence, S.C.

8. Ann Arbor, Mich.

9. Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa

10. Roanoke, Va.

As you can see, you can choose to explore the West, Midwest or South. I’m a Northeasterner and have to wonder why my region didn’t crack the Top 10. Looking at the long Top 100 list at the bottom of the survey page, I had to scan down to no. 51 to find the first Northeast city listed (assuming that my scan was accurate). That city happens to be in my home state, Pennsylvania (yes!), but it’s halfway down the hundred-best list, so I can’t cheer too loudly.

From those top 10, then, let’s look briefly at three, from the West Coast, South and Middle America:

#1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

- Employed population: 1,089,070

- Unemployment rate: 2.4 percent

- Annual mean wage: $78,990

- When people think of Silicon Valley, they often think of San Francisco. But it’s really San Jose they should be thinking of.

- The city acts as the cultural center of the tech-bustling community. Surrounding areas Sunnyvale and Santa Clara round out the metro with an average 2017 wage of $78,990.

#7. Florence, S.C.

- Employed population: 84,850

- Unemployment rate: 3.2 percent

- Annual mean wage: $41,010

- Florence is fairly equidistant between Charlotte and Charleston, making it a great place for financial corporations and medical centers to house their regional operations.

- The metro also boasts the sixth-best wage increase over the past year for the entire list of 386 metros.

#8. Ann Arbor, MI

- Employed population: 213,990

- Unemployment rate: 2.8 percent

- Annual mean wage: $56,160

- Go Blue! The home of the Michigan Wolverines continues to grow its economy in the right direction. The University of Michigan is consistently ranked as one of the top schools in the country, and graduates don’t have to look for to find a solid job market.

- The average annual salary for working individuals in the metro is $56,160, second-highest in the top 10 best job markets.

It’s not hard to see why no. 1 is no. 1:

“Sunnyvale and Santa Clara round out the metro with an average 2017 wage of $78,990.”

Of course, considering local cost of living is paramount when looking at average wages. Rents, home costs and associated prices in that particular area of California are much higher than they are in other areas of the country. So, be careful about being dazzled by income figures alone. Sunshine is also a big plus. Southern California is home to great solar prominence, so get a convertible, your shades and sunscreen and be prepared for the West Coast experience!

As a final word, keep in mind your odds. In general, I’m a believer in statistical probability. Thus, if you’re currently looking for work, even if you’re not a recent college graduate, this survey presents you with some quite helpful statistics. Plus, regarding these top 10 regions, McLeod Brown summarizes the situation perfectly, in my opinion:

And there you have it: The top 10 job markets for 2018. If you’re looking for a job in any of these areas, chances are you’ll find one.

Statistical probability: Don’t look for a job without it!