These are the hottest (and coldest) job markets in America

While some cities flourish as up-and-coming hubs of technology and industry, others are dealing with high unemployment rates and low labor force growth.

Overall, the U.S. economy is booming, with low unemployment and a tight labor market. But that’s not true in all corners of the country.

While some cities flourish as up-and-coming hubs of technology and industry, others are dealing with high unemployment rates, low labor force growth or low wage growth compared to the rest of the country. These discrepancies beg the question: Where should workers flock in 2019?


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To find out “where the jobs are,” The Wall Street Journal recently used a ranking system that takes five metrics into consideration in each of the 53 metropolitan areas with populations greater than one million in the United States. These factors were: “Average unemployment rate in 2018; labor-force participation rate in 2018; the change in employment and change in labor force for the fourth quarter of 2018 from a year earlier; and the change in average weekly wage in the first half of 2018 from the first half (of) 2017,” according to the Journal.

Moody’s Analytics, a financial services company, analyzed the Labor Department data used in the report for the Journal.

Hot child in the city

The hottest city in the U.S. probably won’t come as a surprise. After attracting a number of big tech companies for a series of campuses, Austin, Texas, ranked first in the Journal’s list. With a 3% unemployment rate, 4% wage growth, 70.6% labor force participation, 3.5% job growth and 3% labor force growth, Austin did not rank first in any of the individual categories but did average highest overall.

San Jose, California, boasted a low 2.7% unemployment rate, and Salt Lake City, Utah, had an impressive 72.5% labor force participation. Orlando, Florida — the land of all things Mickey Mouse — saw both labor force and job growth, and Raleigh, North Carolina, enjoyed a steep 5% growth in wages.

Other cities with promising trends included Nashville, Seattle, (with a 9.5% wage growth), Denver, Boston, and Dallas.

Which cities aren’t doing as well?

Some of the country’s most populous cities — as well as many metropolitan areas on the east coast — seem to be going through the opposite trend. Three cities in New York — Rochester, Buffalo, and New York City — were among the coldest job markets in the country. With a 4.5% unemployment rate, Rochester was the “least dynamic labor market,” according to the Journal. New York City was bleeding workers; the labor force dropped 0.3%, and wage growth was “soft despite a high cost of living,” the Journal reported.

Cleveland’s 5% unemployment rate was the highest among major metropolitan areas, landing it among the worst job markets in the country. Other suffering cities included Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago, and Hartford. Three of the country’s top 10 most populous cities were among the coldest markets, signaling that major metropolises may not be the lands of opportunity they once were.


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Alexandra Villarreal|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at avillarreal@theladders.com.