The Top Cities for US Job Seekers in 2023
Amid news of high-profile layoffs, the national unemployment rate is actually relatively low. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it was just 3.4% in January 2023, a rate comparable to unemployment before the start of the pandemic. It's still a job seekers’ market, which may inspire some to take the financial risk to move to a new state or city.
Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, MoneyGeek explored 95 metropolitan areas with labor forces of at least 300,000 to find the best and worst places for job seekers in the U.S. in 2023. We analyzed five key economic factors to determine our ranking: wage and job growth, unemployment rate, labor force size and housing affordability. In addition to ranking the best and worst cities overall, MoneyGeek ranked the best and worst cities for each of the key economic factors measured. Here's what we found.
Jacksonville, Florida, is the best city for job seekers. The city experienced the highest job growth among all cities analyzed, with a low unemployment rate and wage growth triple the national average.
The worst city for job seekers is Akron, Ohio — stagnant job growth and declines in average wages put this city at the bottom of our ranking.
6 of the 10 best cities for job seekers are in Florida: high job and wage growth make these cities desirable for job seekers.
Provo, Utah, is the best city for Gen Z job seekers — there, this generation makes up 16.4% of the population, job growth is high and competition is low.
Palm Bay, Florida, had the highest wage growth of all cities analyzed at 6.3%, contributing to its ranking as the No.7 best city for job seekers overall.
The Best (and Worst) Cities for Job Seekers in the US
MoneyGeek analyzed 95 of the largest cities in the United States to find the best and worst places for job seekers in 2023. We looked at each community’s growth in employment during the last 12 months and for the previous three years, growth in hourly wages over the last 12 months, current unemployment rate, current labor force size and average monthly wage over monthly rent ratio to determine our rankings. The most important factors — including growth in employment during the last 12 months and three years and growth in hourly wages — were double-weighted (22%), while the other factors each contributed 11%.
Best Cities for Job Seekers in the US
The best cities for job seekers have impressive job and wage growth, low job competition and affordable housing prices; in other words, they provide solid employment opportunities and low-cost living.
Top 15 Cities for Job Seekers in 2023
Palm Bay, FL
Boise City, ID
Best Cities for Gen Z Job Seekers
Among the best cities for job seekers, we found that some of the top cities for jobs, livable wages and opportunity also had a higher-than-average concentration of Gen Z residents. Of the cities we analyzed, Gen Zers constituted 9.1% of the population, on average. Below are the five cities ranked in the 20 best cities that also have an above-average Gen Z population; these could be excellent places for young people new to the job market to find opportunity and community.
Top 5 Cities for Gen Z Job Seekers in 2023
Gen Z Population
Salt Lake City, UT
Worst Cities for Job Seekers in the US
While the top cities on our list are affordable, growing and relatively uncompetitive, the worst cities for job seekers tend to have slower wage and job growth, less affordable housing relative to income and competitive job markets. These 15 cities ranked the lowest on our list.
15 Worst Cities for Job Seekers in 2023
Urban Honolulu, HI
San Francisco, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Factors That Make a City Ideal for Job Seekers
MoneyGeek ranked the best and worst cities using four key factors — job growth, wage growth, unemployment rate and housing-to-income ratio — to better understand which cities best served those seeking employment and which fell flat. These factors all contribute to what makes a city attractive or less-than-ideal for job seekers; many cities excel in some areas but fall short in others.
To better understand how well or poorly cities performed in each of our ranking categories, MoneyGeek found the best (and worst) cities for each category. You can find those rankings — along with a brief description of their significance — below.
Job Growth Over the Last 12 Months
1. Jacksonville, FL (5.6%)
2. Tampa, FL (5.4%)
3. Orlando, FL (5.2%)
4. Las Vegas, NV (5.1%)
5. Riverside, CA (5.0%)
1. Milwaukee, WI (-1.7%)
2. Madison, WI (-1.1%)
3. Columbia, SC (-.7%)
4. Cincinnati, OH (-.6%)
5. Akron, OH (-.5%)
In 2023, the majority of the best cities for job growth in the last 12 months are concentrated in Florida, while 4 of the 5 worst cities for job growth are in the Midwest.
Wage Growth Over the Last 12 Months
1. Palm Bay, FL (6.3%)
2. Lakeland, FL (5.6%)
3. Cape Coral, FL (5.2%)
4. Deltona, FL (4.7%)
5. Ogden, UT (4.4%)
1. San Francisco, CA (-12.2%)
2. San Jose, CA (-8.4%)
3. New York, NY (-7.4%)
4. Bridgeport, CT (-6.8%)
5. Boston, MA (-3.9%)
When wages grow, a city is doing something right. Palm Bay, Florida’s 12-month wage growth tops MoneyGeek’s list with 6.3% wage growth. Meanwhile, San Francisco, California, experienced a 12.2% wage decline since 2022.
1. Provo, UT (2.0%)
2. Ogden, UT (2.1%)
3. Salt Lake City, UT (2.2%)
4. Miami, FL (2.2%)
5. Minneapolis, MN (2.2%)
1. Bakersfield, CA (7.2%)
2. McAllen, TX (7.0%)
3. Fresno, CA (6.4%)
4. Las Vegas, NV (5.6%)
5. Stockton, CA (5.4%)
Naturally, it’s a good sign for a job seeker if you see a city with low unemployment; ultimately, it means your odds of being hired at a new job should be pretty good. Provo, Utah, is MoneyGeek’s standout in this category, with just 2% unemployment.
1. Springfield, MA (21.9%)
2. Cleveland, OH (22.2%)
3. St. Louis, MO (22.5%)
4. Toledo, OH (22.9%)
5. Dayton, OH (23.3%)
1. Oxnard, CA (54.1%)
2. Urban Honolulu, HI (51.7%)
3. Providence, RI (48.9%)
4. Los Angeles, CA (47.7%)
5. San Diego, CA (46.0%)
A city’s housing-to-income ratio roughly translates to its affordability; the less money you spend on rent and housing compared to your overall income, the more money you have for everything else. That’s why your money goes much further in Springfield, Massachusetts, than in more expensive cities like Oxnard, California, or Honolulu, Hawaii. In Springfield, monthly rent costs just under 22% of your income, on average. After paying for housing in Oxnard or Honolulu, you’ll have to spend more than half of your income on housing and be left with the other half to cover all other expenses.
Financial Tips for Job Seekers
Relocating to a new city to find a job can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if this isn’t a cross-town journey and you’re moving out of state. If you’re going to move to a new city without having a job lined up, we recommend considering the following:
Ensure you have adequate savings.
Start saving as much as possible to ensure you have a financial safety net in your new city. After all, you may move somewhere the jobs are plentiful, but the interview process could take longer than you imagine. A robust savings account also means you can be choosier about the jobs you pick, and you’ll have something to sustain you if your first job doesn’t last long.
Try not to rely too much on credit cards.
Yes, credit cards are an indispensable cash flow tool and, if you have a credit card with rewards, an excellent way to make money. Use your credit cards well, and those cash back rewards could mean significant savings on your purchases. But if you move somewhere without a job and don’t find employment immediately, the credit card debt you’re accruing could eventually mean that much of your future paycheck will be devoted to paying off revolving debt.
Research your new city and make a plan.
As in, figure out where you may live. Will you start off in a hotel or an apartment complex? Or somewhere in between? Have you used a cost of living calculator to crunch the numbers and see what it will cost you to live there, including possible mortgage prices? The more information you have, the better you’ll feel about your decision.
Expert Advice: Tips for Job Seekers Looking to Relocate
If you’re going to move to a new city because of its job prospects, it helps to know how cities create employment opportunities for their residents. We spoke to several experts to get their take on what cities are doing right with their job creation policies — and what job seekers can do to find livable cities.
- What are some of the most effective policies used to create jobs?
- Aside from jobs, what makes a place suitable for job seekers?
- What would you recommend to a job seeker trying to find a more livable city?
Adjunct Lecturer of Finance, iMBA Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Associate Professor of Economics & Director, International Business Dual Degree Program at Elon University
CEO at Inspire Careers
Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policies
Managing Partner at Clearwater Business Advisers LLC
Executive Coach at The Big Game Hunter
CEO/Executive & Career Coach at Terry B. McDougall Coaching
Chief Economist & Public Finance Senior Research Fellow at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the David Eccles School of Business
Founder at Employment BOOST
Founder & CEO of Career Start
Business Ethics Lecturer at San Diego State University
Adjunct Professor, College of Business at the University of Central Florida
Assistant Professor of Management at Howard University
Human Resources Consultant & Professor of Management and Human Resources
Leadership & Career Coach, Speaker & Author of "Red Cape Rescue: Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job"
President at Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer
Professor of Economics & Director of the International Studies Program at Juniata College
Executive Director of Undergraduate Career Services at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business
Assistant Dean & Director, Career Resource Center, University at Buffalo School of Management
Founder of The Voice of Job Seekers
Certified Life Purpose & Confidence Coach and Founder at The PowHERful Woman
To rank the best cities for job seekers, MoneyGeek calculated three factors using earnings data and employment statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and median rent rates reported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to estimate how good a city is for someone seeking jobs. We analyzed data for 95 areas with labor forces of at least 300,000 in order to find cities with the best opportunities for job seekers across the U.S.
The first factor we calculated is overall growth, which incorporates the trends in jobs created and trends in wages.
The next consideration is job competition, which includes the unemployment rate and the overall size of the employment numbers reflecting greater absolute availability of jobs.
The final factor is housing affordability, which captures the ratio of wages over rents to indicate an area's cost of living.
Additionally, MoneyGeek used 2021 U.S. Census Bureau data to analyze which cities had a higher-than-average population of Generation Z residents for job-seeking new college graduates.
MoneyGeek used the following metrics in our analysis:
- Growth in employment, last 12 months: 22% weight (double weight)
- Growth in employment, last three years: 22% weight (double weight)
- Growth in hourly wages, last 12 months: 22% weight (double weight)
- Unemployment rate, current: 11% weight (full weight)
- Size of labor force: 11% weight (full weight)
- Monthly wages over monthly rents ratio: 11% weight (full weight)
The individual factors were ranked as follows:
- Overall Growth: Growth in employment over the last 12 months (44% weight), growth in employment over the last 36 months (22% weight), hourly wage growth in the last 12 months (33% weight). In the overall ranking, this is 45% of the overall weight.
- Job Competition: Unemployment rate (78% weight) and size of the labor force (22% weight). In the overall ranking, this is 45% of the overall weight.
- Housing Affordability: Wages over rents ratio (100% weight). This is 10% of the overall weight.
- For the purposes of this analysis, only metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with labor forces of at least 300,000 were considered in the ranking.
If you have any questions about MoneyGeek’s findings or methodology, please reach out to Melody Kasulis via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full Data Set
The data points presented are defined as follows:
- Rank: The city's rank in our overall analysis determined by its Total Score, with a lower rank indicating a higher Total Score.
- Total Score: The city’s overall score — with a higher score indicating more favorable conditions for job seekers — and calculated using the methods described in the Methodology section.
- Overall Growth (Jobs & Wages) Score: The city’s overall growth in jobs and wages compared to all other cities on the list — with a higher score indicating higher overall growth — calculated through the methods described in the Methodology section.
- Job Competition Score: The city’s overall job competition compared to all other cities on the list — with a lower score representing less competition — calculated through the methods described in the Methodology section.
- Housing Affordability Score: The city’s overall housing affordability compared to all other cities on the list — with a higher score indicating more affordable housing compared to average income — calculated through the methods described in the Methodology section.
Overall Growth (Jobs & Wages) Score
Job Competition Score
Housing Affordability Score
About Geoff Williams
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "The Employment Situation — January 2023." Accessed February 28, 2023.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "State and Metro Area Employment, Hours, & Earnings." Accessed February 2, 2023.
- United States Census Bureau. "Explore Census Data." Accessed February 2, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "50TH PERCENTILE RENT ESTIMATES." Accessed February 2, 2023.