If you're looking for a fresh start following a layoff, a divorce or other life-changing event, experts suggest that you go Midwest, young man -- or young woman, middle-aged man, etc.
"Things are really booming in parts of the Midwest right now," says Bert Sperling, of Sperling's BestPlaces. "If you take a map and draw a line from North Dakota straight south to Texas, that's where you're going to find areas that have really low unemployment."
Sperling recently analyzed the latest government data and found that five Midwestern cities and one Utah locale offer America's best combination of low joblessness and a high percentage of singles (i.e., people you can date after a divorce).
The expert says the heartland's inexpensive living costs attract plenty of unmarried people, while high commodities prices are boosting the region's farming, oil and gas industries.
As a result, Sperling says the cities below all provide great opportunities for starting over after a life setback -- or really for anyone who's looking for a nice place to live.
"A low unemployment rate is a pretty good sign that a city's economy is doing well, while a large singles population is an indication of a community's vibrancy," he says. "In any metro area, singles are the hope for the future."
All figures below are from the U.S. Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey data and the U.S. Labor Department's latest city-by-city jobless statistics. Singles rates refer to the percentage of unmarried people among 25-to-34 year olds, while population figures reflect an entire metro area:
Fifth-best city for starting over: Sioux Falls, S.D.
The largest city in South Dakota, Sioux Falls has just 5.5% unemployment and a 15.7% singles rate (America's19th-highest).
[See also: America's Safest Cities]
Sperling says South Dakota's business-friendly laws -- there's no corporate income tax -- have attracted lots of employers, especially banks. Citibank (Stock Quote: C) has a major credit-card-processing facility there, while Wells Fargo (Stock Quote: WFC) and other financial firms have large operations in town as well.
"Sioux Falls combines a diverse economy with a small-town atmosphere and a low cost of living," he says.
Fourth-best starting-over city (tie): Lawton, Okla. / Logan, Utah
Population: 114,600 / 123,800
Lawton combines a low 5.6% jobless rate with a high 15.9% singles rate.
Sperling attributes both to the presence of the Fort Sill U.S. military base, which pumps an estimated $1.9 billion into the local economy and hosts some 16,000 troops. Lawton also has a large Goodyear (Stock Quote: GT) tire plant, as well as major government, health care and educational employers.
Put it all together and the city "offers a low cost of living, a small-town atmosphere and a stable economy," Sperling says. "It also sits in a very nice spot on the edge of the Wichita Mountains."
Logan, Utah, boasts just 5.7% unemployment and a 16.4% singles percentage.
Utah State University contributes to both, while the city's high-tech, biomedical, food-processing and call-center employers also give the local economy a big boost.
Sperling adds that Logan offers "tremendous quality of life if you love the outdoors. Utah's mountains offer skiing, snowboarding, cycling -- all sorts of things."
Third-best starting-over city: Lincoln, Neb.
Lincoln has only 4.1% unemployment -- the lowest rate for any U.S. city.
Sperling attributes much of that to the fact that Lincoln hosts Nebraska's state capitol, as well as a Goodyear tire factory and several financial/insurance firms.
The city is also home to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, which provides jobs and contributes to the community's high 15.1% singles rate.
"Lincoln is a nice, clean city with lots of parks and a good community feel," Sperling says, although he admits winters "can be brutal."
Second-best city for starting over: Fargo, N.D.
North Dakota's agricultural, mining and oil-and-gas industries are booming, helping to give Fargo the nation's third-lowest jobless rate -- 4.5%.
North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University at Moorhead across the state line also contribute to Fargo's economy, as well as to its 15.9% singles rate (America's 14th-highest).
"The colleges also help create a surprisingly trendy, hip life in Fargo," Sperling says. "There's a lot of cool stuff going on there. If you can take the harsh winters, it's a great place to live."
No. 1 starting-over community: Iowa City, Iowa
This city is home to the University of Iowa, which helps contribute to its 4.7% jobless rate and 16.1% singles population.
Located on the Iowa River, Iowa City served as Iowa's territorial capital from 1841 to 1857, and the Old Capitol Building is still a local landmark.
"Iowa City really is a nice town," Sperling says. "It has an attractive downtown, a well-educated population and a great community feel to it."
- North Dakota
- North Dakota