The Happiest U.S. Cities to Work

Meghan Casserly

A new survey reveals where the happiest workers are.

If commuting through sleet, slush and snow in the Northeast or Midwest isn't enough to make you want to pack up and move south, maybe this will: With the exception of the Bay Area and Washington, D.C., the top 10 happiest cities to work are all in sun-drenched, snow-free locales, according to online career site, which just released its first annual listing of the nation's top 50 cities.

San Jose, Calif., headlines at No. 1, closely followed by neighboring San Francisco. Both cities have tech-centric economies and are regions where employees are more than satisfied with their compensation, benefits packages and work-life balance.

Matt Miller, CTO at CareerBliss, says that cities with bigger tech presences, particularly growing IT industries, are markedly happier than other cities -- and so landed high on the list. "Cities that are tech strongholds tend to have populations with strong educational backgrounds who are pulling in high salaries," Miller says.

After San Jose and San Francisco, he points to Los Angeles (No. 8), which is benefitting from a boom in post-MySpace social networking companies, and Washington, D.C. (No. 5), where IT is a growing presence necessary to bolster and maintain government security.

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To evaluate the data,, an online community for career advancement, conducted independent company reviews from employees all over the country to collect 200,000 data points on eight specific factors of workplace happiness. These are growth opportunities, compensation, benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, senior management, job security and whether the employee would recommend the company to others.

Each factor was followed by a ranking from one to five of how important that element was in the employee's overall happiness. These numbers were combined to find an average rating of overall workplace happiness for each city.

The Sunshine State's Jacksonville and Miami follow at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively. These are surprises, tending to scale low on other quality-of-work-and-life surveys, such as No. 114 of 200 on the Best Cities for Business and Careers and No. 44 of 50 on the Best Cities For Working Mothers lists. Miller was similarly surprised to see Jacksonville in the top three.

"We actually found a trend that resounded through a few surprising cities that included Jacksonville and El Paso (No. 7). These cities tended to rank high in terms of job growth opportunities -- people likely to recommend their company to others -- and work-life balance." Jacksonville especially is a city that is experiencing a lot of growth, he says. Employees at Bank of America (NYSE: BAC - News), which has a stronghold in the Florida city, are pleased with their company's growth, as it plans to expand in the city in the coming year.

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Miller says military bases also play a part in the overall happiness of a city, as cities like El Paso, home to Fort Bliss and Biggs Air Force Base, tend to be happier in terms of job security. And in addition to its job security as a result of an increase in information technology jobs, Washington, D.C., employees are quite pleased with their stable, government-backed jobs, which also afford them some of the highest salaries in the country.

Rounding out the top 10 are Memphis, Tenn. (No. 6), San Diego, Calif. (No. 9) and Birmingham, Ala. (No. 10).

Another shocker? New York City, home of high Wall Street salaries and not a few corporate headquarters, sits at No. 14. Says Miller: "As far as the quality of the work or opportunity to grow, [New York City] ranked low. Compensation and benefits ranked higher than many other cities, but how [employees] feel about their jobs kept it from landing in the top 10."

Readers: What makes you happy at work? If asked to rank growth opportunity, compensation, benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, senior management and job security, what element would play the biggest part in keeping you content?

The Happiest U.S. Cities to Work

©Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images

No. 1 San Jose

Average salary: $82,635.58

Work-life balance rating: 3.61

Job security rating: 3.13

©Dirk Anschutz/Getty Images

No. 2 San Francisco

Average salary: $74,745.13

Work-life balance rating: 3.56

Job security rating: 3.13

©Jim Arbogast/Getty Images

No. 3 Jacksonville, Fla.

Average salary: $55,532.67

Work-life balance rating: 3.56

Job security rating: 3.47

©Paul Chesley/Getty Images

No. 4 Miami

Average salary: $58,039.72

Work-life balance rating: 3.57

Job security rating: 3.44

©Vito Palmisano/Getty Images

No. 5 Washington, D.C.

Average salary: $73,708.26

Work-life balance rating: 3.53

Job security rating: 3.44

Click here to see all 10 of The Happiest U.S. Cities to Work


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