Fun with labor, maps, and statistics: if you want to find a job, move to North Dakota, Nebraska, or Dallas

I love data on jobs and job searching, probably because my own life is a wreck with that stuff right now. I started out looking at unemployment rate by state — to a coastal-bias person, it would seem crazy that the top three states for unemployment are North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. On surface, you might assume, “Oh, those are Keystone Pipeline states, no?” They are, although that’s a bit more coincidental: North Dakota’s solid employment status is tied to oil/fracking, while South Dakota and Nebraska are more tied to agricultural production. Not everything’s as rosy on the long-term front in Nebraska, though:

Nebraska’s unemployment rate in December was 3.6 percent, the third-lowest in the country, behind only North Dakota and South Dakota.

However, when it comes to how long people have been out of work, we don’t do quite so well.

According to an analysis done by the Economic Policy Institute, 27.8 percent of the unemployed in Nebraska have been out of a job for at least six months. That’s tied with Kansas and higher than 11 other states.

This all led me to look at this by city, because very frequently would an individual say “I’m moving to X-State!” Rather, it’s typically X-City (based on Y-Job). I found an interesting post via WalletHub about the 60 best cities to find a job; let’s start with their methodology to see how flawed it could potentially be.

It looks like they take a lot into account, from number of job openings to employment growth to industry variety to work/commute time. So, by their metrics, the top five are (and this is based on the larges 60 cities in the U.S.):

1. Fort Worth, TX

2. Washington, DC

3. Tampa, FL

4. Arlington, TX

5. Dallas, TX

Whoa. See a trend? 1, 4, and 5 are basically the same metro area. Not to mention: Austin is sixth, Houston is 10th, and Corpus Christi is 12th. Bottom line from WalletHub, then: if you want a gig, move to Texas. 

The bottom five are:

60. Los Angeles, CA

59. New York, NY

58. Fresno, CA

57. Honolulu, HI

56. Riverside, CA

Yet if you do this by “most job openings per capita,” four of the top five cities are in California — Anaheim, Long Beach, Oakland, and Santa Ana. If you’re into making money straight out, the five best cities for median starting salary are San Jose, DC, San Francisco, New York, and Seattle (not a huge surprise there; all tech/finance centers). The third fastest-growing workforce is in Kansas City, MO — thank you, Google Fiber — and the place with the highest home-buying power is Detroit, MI — here comes the renaissance. Should be noted, probably, that WalletHub is based in DC, which could theoretically color the rankings somewhat (probably not a lot, though).

There have been tons of different studies like this over just the past six months — for example, Salt Lake City is good for social mobility, New Mexico might be a good place to find jobs in 2022, Indianapolis may be the next startup hub, and jobs are migrating to places like Ann Arbor.(And all that is without getting into “Best Places To Live” surveys, which will take you down another series of rabbit holes.) Ultimately all that matters is what works for you and your family and your specific contextual situation, but if you are completely open and you believe the methodology above, it does seem like the Dallas area might be a strong play for you.

Ted Bauer