Nationally, the current unemployment rate is at less than 5%, down from a high of 10% in 2009. The job market was and still is in a period of steady growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a national average job growth rate of 4.47% across 22 job field categories between 2012 and 2015.
The top five fastest-growing job categories far surpass the average. The community and social service sector grew by 14.61% between 2012 and 2015, and the computer and mathematics sector grew by 14.49%. Health care practitioners and technicians grew by 9.89%, construction and extraction by 9.24%, and art, design, entertainment, sports, and media by 8.42%.
But “not all cities are created equally,” as ABODO states in its new “Best Cities for Job-Seekers” report. Different occupations and industries are clustered in different cities across the country, and depending on a job-seeker’s chosen field, moving to one of these occupation centers may be the best move for their career.
"At ABODO we know that moving is stressful and that there are many pieces to the moving puzzle,” says Sam Radbil, ABODO’s senior communications manager. “With that in mind, we set out to provide job seekers who might be on the move, with information that will help them find a better job in the city that they live in or in the city they're moving to.”
Given the distortion that occurs in employment figures for smaller cities and towns, ABODO has limited its job density research to the top 25 largest U.S. cities by population size. The report’s job density calculation was based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ location quotient, which compares an occupation’s presence in a specific location to its national presence, based on total employment. The closer this location quotient is to 1, the closer a given city’s occupational density is to the national average. A figure above 1 shows a job market’s strength relative to the national figure, and a figure below 1 shows a market’s relative paucity.
For most of the nation’s fast-growing occupations, metropolitan areas were among the best locations for job seekers. The exception was farming, fishing, and forestry, which grew by 7.95% between 2012 and 2015, but did not rise above the national average in any of the cities surveyed.
Philadelphia sports a 1.99 location quotient in the top-performing Community and Social Service occupation sector, which among similar fields includes social workers, counselors, religious workers, and probation officers. This is .63 points higher than Boston’s No. 2 location quotient in this sector, and twice the national community and social service density. ABODO notes that this sector is not always linked to metropolitan areas, which is why even the highest-performing cities, like San Francisco at #8, have quotients below the national average.
Silicon Valley beats the national average many times over in the Computer and Mathematics sector. San Jose’s location quotient in this field is 4.3, while San Francisco’s is 2.73 – four and three times the national average, respectively.
Out of the top five fastest-growing categories, this one has the greatest concentration in city centers. Washington, Seattle, and Austin are also top performers in this sector, followed by the newer tech metros of Dallas and Columbus, Ohio.
Health Care Practitioners and Technicians are not too heavily concentrated in one place or another. ABODO notes that “Health care is one of those fields that necessarily flourishes everywhere.” Philadelphia carries the highest location quotient at 1.34, followed by Detroit at 1.2. At No. 10, Chicago’s location quotient is the first to drop below 1.
Construction and Extraction density is much more centralized than any of the other categories. Five of the top ten metro areas are in Texas – Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston – and Jacksonville, Fla. is the only city east of Texas on the list. Texas’s showing reflects the recent population boom in the state –five of the ten fastest-growing U.S. cities are in Texas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Outside Texas, Denver is the only city out of the ten experiencing a significant construction boom.
Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports & Media jobs are also concentrated in large metropolitan areas, each with different populations of different professions. Los Angeles sits at No. 1 with a 2.69 quotient, owing to the film and television industry, while New York City leads the country in publishing, theater, and art at No. 2, with a 1.95 quotient. A surprising entry is Columbus, Ohio, which appears at No. 10 with a 1.11 quotient. ABODO notes that the city has become an art and fashion mecca over the past few years, and currently is the third-largest employer of fashion designers after Los Angeles and New York.
Although ABODO’s density calculations highlight the robust industries already in place in the nation’s largest cities, they also make note of smaller cities and their occupational communities. Depending on what a job-seeker prefers in a potential home, they might do better in job-hunting and in quality if they choose a rapidly-expanding market over a long-expanded larger city.
A chart of density ratios across the five fields in all 25 surveyed cities can be found in the full ABODO report.