America's 10 Hardest-Working Cities

Forbes
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Early foggy morning on Ladybird Lake in Austin, Texas.

Where do Americans work the hardest? As a New Yorker surrounded by people toiling away, including my diligent colleagues who post stories at all hours, including weekends and during hurricanes, I would have automatically said The Big Apple. But Movoto, a Redwood City, Calif.-based real estate site that puts out periodic city lists, rates New York in 11th place, after Houston and just above Virginia Beach, Va. For the complete list of 50 cities, click here.

The No. 1 hardest-working city: Seattle, followed by Arlington, Texas, and in third place, Fort Worth. In fact Texas cities take up five spots on the top-ten list.

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David Cross, the Movoto writer who put together the list, admits that the site has a bit of fun with its tallies. For instance, in April it put out a roster of America’s “nerdiest” cities, also known as “the best cities for nerds,” topped by Atlanta, Portland, Ore. and Seattle.  Some of the criteria for the nerd list: Number of annual comic book, video game, anime and sci-fi/fantasy conventions, and people per comic book store and video game store. (New York didn’t make the top ten on that list either.)

For the hardest-working list, Movoto’s stats are a tad more serious. The site uses seven measures, topped by the average hours worked per week, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers for the nation’s 50 largest metro areas. Houston ranks at the top of that list.  Residents of Houston log  37.6 hours of  work per week. Tying for second place are three other Lone Star State cities: Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas, each with 37 hours.

The second measure: the unemployment rate. Seattle has the lowest of the 50 cities Movoto examines, at just 4% of its population.

Next Movoto considers commute time. Not formally part of the work day, but usually an interlude that workers spend not doing something they’d rather be pursuing, like spending time with family, exercising or building model airplanes, Movoto figures it should add this to the workday. As a cyclist who applauds New York City’s new bike share program and notices an increasing number of people getting around on two wheels, I believe this criterion could be challenged under the theory that biking to work is a treat rather than a chore. But I understand that most Americans are stuck taking less-than-pleasant trains, buses and cars. Movoto uses Census data for these numbers and finds that Chicago residents spend the most time, an average of 33.7 minutes, getting to work.

After commute time, Movoto used Census data to calculate the number of people working in each residence. New York City won the top spot, with 2.4 workers per household. San Jose came in second, with 1.49 employed people per residence.

Another measure: volunteer hours. I might also argue that this should not go toward the total-work-time tally, since people choose to volunteer because they are highly motivated to support a cause, but Movoto insists this is work too. However Movoto’s source on this data point is dated: the 2008 Volunteering and Civic Life in America report, put out by a federal government agency, the Corporation for National & Community Service, which tracks such things. Apparently the 2008 numbers are the most detailed. Oklahoma City residents come out on top, volunteering 76.6 hours per person that year.

The sixth data point is “lack of sleep.” Columbus, Ohio is the worst offender. That city has the greatest amount of interrupted sleep per capita, at 9.7 nights per month. Movoto relies on statistics gathered by a website called Sleepbetter.org, which sells sleep aides like mattress covers and memory foam pillows, so it may be biased toward finding that people aren’t sleeping well.

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Finally Movoto looks at the cost of living in each city, based on a calculator on another real estate site, Sperling. The logic for including this measure: if it costs a lot to live somewhere, you have to work longer and harder to pay the bills. San Francisco, which ranks sixth on the overall list, comes out on top here.

We decided to write up this list because we all know that lists are fun. But given the lack of rigor in Movoto’s statistics, it’s best to take it with a grain of salt. Still, I’m sure you’re curious which city on the top 50 is the least hardworking: Memphis, Tenn.

Here's the top 10 list:

1. Seattle

Seattle has the lowest unemployment rate of the ten cities on the list.

2. Arlington, Texas
Arlington has the second-greatest number of hours worked per capita.

3. Fort Worth
Forth Worth ties with Arlington for the greatest number of hours worked per capita.

4. Austin
Austin has the sixth-lowest unemployment rate on the list and the fifth-highest hours worked per capita.

5. San Jose
San Jose has the second-greatest workers per household of the cities on the list.

6. San Francisco
San Francisco has low unemployment--the eighth-lowest on the list--and the sixth-longest commute time.

7. Dallas
Dallas has the second-greatest number of hours worked per capita.

8. Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach has the sixth-lowest unemployment rate of the cities on the list.

9. Washington, D.C.

D.C. ranks high in the average length of commutes--the fourth-highest on the list.

10. Houston
Residents of Houston work the greatest number of hours per capita.


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