The Best and Worst Cities for Jobs This Fall


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Last month the unemployment rate fell a tick to 7.3% and the U.S. economy added 169,000 jobs--but that wasn't nearly enough for the millions of jobless Americans still looking for work.

Hearing news like this month after month makes it difficult be optimistic about the job market, but a new survey released by employment services firm ManpowerGroup does offer a glimpse of hope to job seekers all over the country.

It found that employers in all 100 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) included in the survey plan to increase their payrolls during the three-month period ending in December. It also tells us exactly where they intend to increase them the most, and where their hopes lag behind.

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ManpowerGroup surveyed more than 18,000 employers in 100 metropolitan statistical areas to find out who’s hiring, who’s firing and who plans to maintain their current staff levels in the fourth and final quarter of 2013. Of the surveyed employers, 18% anticipate an increase in staffing levels in their third quarter hiring plans, while 8% expect a decrease in payrolls. The difference between those numbers gives you what ManpowerGroup calls a net employment outlook of 10%--or 13% when seasonally adjusted, which is up from 11% for the same period last year and 12% last quarter. Seventy-two percent of employers expect no change in their staffing, and the final 2% of employers are uncertain.

“Given the slow and steady recovery of the economy and continued global volatility, a 13% net employment outlook is healthy,” says Jorge Perez, senior vice president of Manpower, North America. “The survey continues to show consistent improvements in hiring optimism among U.S. employers. As we look to the last three months of 2013, we can expect more of the same gradual improvements in hiring plans.”

The metropolitan area with the most optimistic forecast of all for hiring this fall is the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas area.

“I am not at all surprised,” says Tracey Wheeler, president and chief executive of the Baytown Chamber of Commerce. “Baytown is experiencing unbelievable growth in the petrochemical and medical fields," she says.

Bob Harvey, president and chief executive of the Greater Houston Partnership, agrees. “I’m not surprised,” he says. “Houston is becoming synonymous with jobs; not to mention quality of life and renowned educational institutions. Since the bottom of the recession, the Houston metro area has grown by 309,100 jobs, or 201.9% of the 153,100 jobs lost during the recession. No other major U.S. metro has exceeded its previous employment peak by a larger proportion.”

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Harvey says Houston is hiring across the board--but there’s “definitely an emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math),” he says. “That includes professionals in finance, medical professionals, and certainly the engineering community.”

Jeannie Bollinger, president and chief executive of the Houston West Chamber of Commerce, says the overall hiring environment in the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown area is fast and furious. “Oil and Gas, of course, ranked the highest in terms of needing highly skilled and educated employees, but let’s not lose sight of medical, technology, engineering, retail, education and financial fields–all large sectors in West Houston. There is a scramble for highly educated and skilled employees.”

The Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metro area enjoys a 23% net employment outlook--the percentage of employers that expect to add employees (28%) minus the percentage that expect to reduce their workforce (5%). Another 66% said they anticipate no change, and 1% didn’t know, according to the ManpowerGroup survey.

“Our economy is thriving and diverse,” Harvey says. “Our business-friendly climate and solid infrastructure encourages investment and growth. Our world-class port and airport system also make us a leading hub for international business.”

Some of the largest employers in the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metro area include Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, United Airlines, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Bayer Corporation, BMC Software, CITGO Petroleum, ConocoPhillips, Halliburton and the Texas Children’s Hospital. “Houston is also a hot bed for entrepreneurial activity, with many small to mid-sized businesses that are also hiring,” Harvey says.

“What people like most about Houston is our entrepreneurial spirit,” Bollinger adds. “This is not a pretentious city; it is the biggest small town you will ever live in.”

The Houston area is also a great place to live and work because “it offers the winning combination of low cost of living and high quality of life,” Harvey says. “Houston offers all the perks of big city life without the hefty price tag. Not only do we have jobs, but we have a wide variety of affordable housing options, renowned universities, world-class performing arts, and major spectator sports. Culturally speaking, we’re the most ethnically diverse metro in the nation with a large international population and young college graduates are moving to Houston from all around the country to take advantage of our economy, night life, and all around ‘buzz.’”

Tied for the No. 2 spot are the Cape Coral-Ft. Myers, Fla. area, and the Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, S.C. area.

Twenty-six percent of employers in Cape Coral and Ft. Myers reported positive forecasts, while just 5% drew a bleaker picture; 65% said they won’t be changing their employment levels; and the remaining 4% are unsure of their hiring plans. This yields a net employment outlook of 21% for the fall.

“Business owners and residents are greatly encouraged as unemployment continues to decline,” says Mike Quaintance, president of the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce. “One sector that seems to be growing is the home building industry. [It] has been phenomenal for the last two years and prices are increasing and there is actually a shortage of existing inventory.  This is driving the building industry to hire trades people to build houses. What is unusual is that commercial building, which usually follows the housing market, seems to be taking off simultaneously."

Some of the area’s largest employers are the VA Clinic, Lee Memorial Health System, Wal-Mart and Publix.

The Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, S.C. metro area is also enjoying a 21% net employment outlook (23% plan to increase their payrolls, 2% anticipate a decrease, 73% won’t make any changes, and 2% are unsure of their hiring plans).

“The hiring environment is strong and positive,” says Cindy Hopkins, president of the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce. “In the past year, several of our local manufacturing companies have experienced expansions with new job creation--and the retail sector has experienced much growth, with the opening of several national chains, including Academy Sports, Kohl’s, Marshalls, Tractor Supply, Sam’s Club and QuikTrip.”

Ben Haskew, president at chief executive of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, says manufacturing, health care and technology are among the leading industries in Greenville right now. Some of the biggest employers in the area: Greenville Health System, Michelin North America, BMW, GE and Fluor Corporation.

“Greenville has transformed its downtown over the past 30 years to both an employment and activity center,” he says. “A new $100 million office center is currently being completed on Main Street to house a bank headquarters, Clemson University’s MBA program and [two retail stores]. Over 100 restaurants are located downtown. The arts are ever present with the Peace Center for the Performing Arts, which just completed a $21 million face lift.” Haskew says their most recent Cost of Living Survey showed Greenville at 91.9% of the national average.

Employers in the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, N.C.-S.C. area also anticipate a significant upswing in hiring for the next quarter.

Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, says hiring in the area has picked up across the board with “key sectors really picking up steam.” The manufacturing, energy, health care, technology and financial services industries are all seeing tremendous growth and demand, he adds.

“Manufacturers come to Charlotte to tap our skilled and productive workforce,” Morgan says. “Charlotte is home to Central Piedmont Community College, the state’s largest community college, and UNC Charlotte, the fourth largest University in the sixteen-campus UNC system. Both offer worker-training programs, including programs that can be customized to meet employers’ needs.”

Charlotte is also renowned for its vibrant banking sector, he adds. “With more than $2.2 trillion in assets, it is the second largest financial center in the nation, behind only New York. Bank of America, the nation’s largest bank is headquartered here. In total, 35 banks with more than 250 local branches, as well as a Federal Reserve Branch, are located in Charlotte. Our banks provide a wealth of services to commercial and individual customers and are leaders in the financial services industry.”

Twenty-six percent of employers in the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, N.C.-S.C. metropolis anticipate a bright fourth quarter. Meanwhile, 6% expect to decrease their payrolls, 64% anticipate no change and 4% are uncertain. This yields a net employment outlook of 20%.

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Some major employers in the area include Carolinas HealthCare System, Wells Fargo Company, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools , Bank of America, Walmart and Sam's Club Stores, Novant Health, Lowe’s, Food Lion and Duke Energy Corp.

“With a population of more than 1.8 million, metropolitan Charlotte offers all of the advantages and amenities of a major urban area,” Morgan says. “Charlotte’s composite cost of living, at 94.1% of the national average, is lower than all but seven other major metro U.S. cities. A key component of that figure is housing, which in Charlotte is 81% of the national average.”

Unfortunately not all cities are as confident about hiring. The net employment outlook in the Albuquerque, N.M. area is a far weaker 3%; in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area it’s just 2%–and those aren’t even the worst.

Only 12% of surveyed St. Louis area employers plan to hire between October and December, while 11% expect to reduce their staff levels. Seventy-four percent expect to maintain their current workforce and 3% are unsure of their hiring plans. This yields a net employment outlook of 1% for the Missouri metropolis, making it the worst city for jobs this fall.

“It’s important to note that all growth is good growth,” Perez says. “However, taken in context with the 100 MSAs surveyed, employers in these three markets report slower growth compared to other regions of the country. Given that, a mix of factors are contributing to the weaker outlooks, from seasonality to layoffs in the markets.”

He says a strong overall year-end hiring forecast is good news for U.S. job seekers. “As employers look at remaining budgets and expected demand, they make decisions about staff levels.” According to the survey, they are inclined to hire at a slightly stronger pace than they have previously this year, he says.

“Employers have become adept at operating in an environment where the only certainty is uncertainty,” Perez concludes. “With that mindset, they are adding staff at a pace that parallels demand. We expect this consistent, measured growth in hiring to continue into next year.”

The Full Ranking:

Metropolitan Statistical Area% Increase% Decrease% No Change% Don't KnowNet Employment Outlook
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX MSA28566123
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL MSA26565421
Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, SC MSA23273221
Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC MSA26664420
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA MSA25668119
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA MSA23469419
Austin-Round Rock, TX MSA26863318
San Antonio, TX MSA22472218
Greensboro-High Point, NC MSA23668317
Orlando-Kissimmee, FL MSA22572117
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA MSA26960517
Toledo, OH MSA24768117
Tucson, AZ MSA22572117
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH MSA21571316
Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI MSA24866216
Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA MSA22669316
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA MSA22671116
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA21669415
Fresno, CA MSA22769215
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL MSA19474315
Las Vegas-Paradise, NV MSA22768315
Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, PA MSA21669415
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA24964315
Baltimore-Towson, MD MSA21771114
Boise City-Nampa, ID MSA23966214
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN MSA22870014
Columbia, SC MSA21770214
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI MSA20670414
Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA MSA22866414
Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC MSA20770313
Dayton, OH MSA20770313
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL MSA21871013
Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA MSA21867413
Jacksonville, FL MSA17475413
Lexington-Fayette, KY MSA20771213
New Haven-Milford, CT MSA17479013
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA MSA19672313
Salt Lake City, UT MSA20772113
Bakersfield, CA MSA20871112
Colorado Springs, CO MSA241262212
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI MSA21969112
Kansas City, MO-KS MSA18676012
Knoxville, TN MSA17577112
Pittsburgh, PA MSA20871112
Raleigh-Cary, NC MSA20870212
Richmond, VA MSA19772212
Springfield, MA MSA17576212
El Paso, TX MSA19870311
Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN MSA17675211
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI MSA20970111
Oklahoma City, OK MSA17673411
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL MSA15480111
Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA MSA19871211
Reno-Sparks, NV MSA17674311
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH MSA17773310
Columbus, OH MSA18870410
Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA MSA201068210
Jackson, MS MSA15577310
Lancaster, PA MSA16677110
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA MSA221263310
North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL MSA15577310
Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA MSA201069110
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA201067310
Akron, OH MSA1567639
Honolulu, HI MSA1787419
New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA MSA19106929
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA MSA1677619
Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY MSA21126619
Wichita, KS MSA1787239
Asheville, NC MSA1687248
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX MSA1687428
Denver-Aurora, CO MSA1577718
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL MSA1357758
Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, ME MSA19116828
Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA MSA1248408
Syracuse, NY MSA1687518
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA1797318
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA MSA1467918
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI MSA1697417
Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR MSA1367837
Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN MSA1587617
Worcester, MA MSA1587707
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY MSA1487626
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ MSA19136626
Baton Rouge, LA MSA1268206
Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT MSA19136716
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA MSA1597336
Madison, WI MSA19136716
Spokane, WA MSA1597426
Memphis, TN-MS-AR MSA1277925
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ MSA1387725
Rochester, NY MSA1387635
Tulsa, OK MSA15107325
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD MSA1397804
Albuquerque, NM MSA1297723
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT MSA14117413
Indianapolis-Carmel, IN MSA15127213
Birmingham-Hoover, AL MSA14127312
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY MSA12107802
St. Louis, MO-IL MSA12117431

Source: ManpowerGroup

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