The best overall job market for 2015 is Lincoln, Nebraska, a city which continues a run of strong job growth combined with an unemployment rate far below the national average. Rounding out the top five job markets are Fargo, ND, Rochester, MN, Sioux Falls, SD, and Odessa, TX, a lineup that points out the relative economic strength of smaller and mid-sized metropolitan areas, as well as the unique structural challenge of a number of upper midwest cities: a shale-oil fueled job creation rate that is outstripping the number of available candidates.
Here’s the list of the top ten best job markets in 2015, which we determined by ranking cities by Applicants to Employer ratio, Applications to Job posting ratio, and Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment scores:
1. Lincoln, NE
Nebraska’s capital city, which is currently ranked #6 on Forbes’ list of Best Places for Business and Careers, takes the number one spot on the list with a killer combination of low unemployment, strong job growth, and a low ratio of applicants to open jobs.
Which industries are hiring: Lincoln leads the nation in job growth in construction, financial services, state government, manufacturing and healthcare, according to a study by the University of Nebraska.
2. Fargo, ND
With job growth and income gains outpacing the national average, Fargo is a major beneficiary of the region’s boom in oil production. Most impressively, job growth has kept pace with Fargo’s double digit population growth over the last decade.
Which industries are hiring: Education and healthcare are the main drivers of job growth in Fargo, with agriculture and manufacturing also contributing to the region’s stellar job creation rate.
Home of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, Rochester’s economic cornerstone is the essentially recession-proof healthcare sector, and recent population growth has further fueled its impressive job creation rate, especially in the service industry.
Which industries are hiring: Rochester is a major center of healthcare hiring, and stands to add thousands of construction jobs once the Mayo Clinic breaks ground on its billion dollar, decades-long expansion project.
Fast-growing Sioux Falls is a regional economic engine which consistently ranks in the top tier of small cities for job growth and has successfully diversified its economy beyond the CitiBank-dominated financial services sector.
Which industries are hiring: Mail-order pharmaceuticals, medical device manufacturing, and information assurance are just some of the industries which have established or expanded operations in Sioux Falls, alongside the still-vibrant financial services sector.
5. Odessa, TX
Oil is the lifeblood of the West Texas city of Odessa, which is probably best known to most Americans for its rich high school football tradition. Recently pegged by Forbes as one of the fastest growing small cities in the U.S., Odessa’s impressive job creation rate continues to outpace the expansion of its burgeoning population.
Which industries are hiring: Energy services and construction lead employment growth in Odessa, with strong showings by the healthcare and service industries.
6. Provo, UT
Hometown collegiate powerhouse Brigham Young University provides Provo with a highly educated workforce, which has helped attract and retain companies like Google, Novell, Ancestry.com, and Adobe. A great location also helps – Provo was recently named Outdoor’s 2nd Best Town in America, based on its vibrant economy and access to outdoor recreation.
Which industries are hiring: Education, tech, healthcare are all experiencing healthy growth, with the LDS Church also chipping in with strong hiring.
7. Omaha, NE
A town which can boast of being home to the headquarters of five Fortune 500 companies – not to mention Warren Buffet – Omaha is something of the poster child for vibrant upper Midwest towns, with its low unemployment rate, vibrant economy, solid population growth, and continued livability having set the gold standard.
Which industries are hiring: The financial services industry provides perennial growth, with the healthcare, tech, and telecom sectors also contributing to Omaha’s standout job creation rate.
The regional economic center for Northern Colorado, Fort Collins is another job market which capitalizes on the presence of a higher learning institution (per the Chamber of Commerce the town notches “11.45 patents issued per 10,000 people, which is 4 times higher than the average”), using its drawing power to attract and retain tech firms, most notably semiconductor giants like AMD and Intel.
Which industries are hiring: Education, tech, and manufacturing are the key drivers of employment in Fort Collins, which has an impressively diverse economy.
9. Boulder, CO
The home of Colorado’s other, bigger state university, Boulder has long been an affluent, vibrant center of research and education, with multiple national labs and tech concerns helping to contribute to an unemployment rate that’s 2.5 points lower than the national average.
Which industries are hiring: Education, government, tech, and manufacturing are the key industries, with small and medium sized businesses making an outsized contribution to hiring: 96% of of the city’s 7,000 employers have fewer than 50 employees.
10. Minneapolis, MN
The biggest city amongst the top overall job markets, Minneapolis is that rare metropolis with an unemployment rate below the national average (compare its 3.9% unemployment rate to Chicago’s 7.3% jobless rate, for example), marking it as a standout in the U.S. economic landscape.
Which industries are hiring: Professional services lead the charge, accounting for around 33% of all new positions created according to the Star Tribune, with healthcare, tech, and food manufacturing contributing to the Twin Cities’ vibrant job market.
In addition to looking at the overall top job markets, we also used our data to determine the best job markets among large, medium, and small metropolitan areas.
Best Big Job Markets (Population over 1 million)
|10 Best Big City Job Markets|
|1. Minneapolis, MN|
|2. Salt Lake City, UT|
|3. Columbus, OH|
|4. Oklahoma City, OK|
|5. Cincinnati, OH|
|6. Pittsburgh, PA|
|7. Raleigh, NC|
|8. Richmond, VA|
|9. Birmingham, AL|
|10. Washington, DC|
Best Mid-Sized Job Markets (Population between 250,000 and 1 million)
|10 Best Mid-Sized Job Markets|
|1. Lincoln, NE|
|2. Provo, UT|
|3. Omaha, NE|
|4. Fort Collins, CO|
|5. Boulder, CO|
|6. Amarillo, TX|
|7. Madison, WI|
|8. Ogden, UT|
|9. Lubbock, TX|
|10. Boise City, ID|
Best Small Job Markets (Population below 250,000)
|10 Best Small Job Markets|
|1. Fargo, ND|
|2. Rochester, MN|
|3. Sioux Falls, SD|
|4. Odessa, TX|
|5. Columbia, MO|
|6. Appleton, WI|
|7. Topeka, KS|
|8. Cedar Falls, IA|
|9. Waco, TX|
|10. Blacksburg, VA|