Should you move to find a job?

By Anne Fisher, contributor


NEW  YORK (Fortune) -- Dear Annie: I was startled to see in your article about job interviewing mistakes that there are now 6.3 applicants for every job opening in the U.S. But that is a national average, right? Are some cities better than others for job hunters?

The reason I ask is, I am thinking of moving from L.A. back to Boston, where I went to college, to look for a position as an accounting manager. I always liked it there and still have many friends and relatives in the area. Does this make sense? -- Bound for Beantown

Dear B.B.: Yes, that's right, 6.3 applicants per available job is the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- and yes, some local job markets around the country are less awful than that. (Others are much worse, alas.)

Have you ever moved to find a job? Leave your comments at the bottom of this story.

Researchers at Juju.com, a job-search engine that compiles posts from job boards and from hundreds of corporate web sites, recently used BLS figures to rank 50 U.S. metropolitan areas in order of the number of applicants per opening.

The ten most promising cities for job hunters:

1. Washington, D.C. - 2.0
2. Baltimore - 2.7
3. San Jose - 3.1
4. Salt Lake City - 3.2
5. New York City - 3.4
6. Hartford, Conn. - 3.6
7. Denver - 4.4
8. Boston - 4.5
In a three-way tie for ninth place:
9. San Antonio - 5.0
9. Austin - 5.0
9. Indianapolis - 5.0
10. Pittsburgh - 5.1

The cities with the most applicants per job opening:

40. Orlando - 9.0
41. Memphis - 9.4
42. Birmingham, Ala. - 9.5
Tied for 43rd place:
43. Providence, R.I. - 9.6
43. Portland, Ore. - 9.6
44. Sacramento - 11.2
45. Los Angeles - 11.9
46. Riverside, Calif. - 13.4
47. Las Vegas - 14.4
48. Miami - 15.8
49. St. Louis - 19.9
50. Detroit - 21.6

By this measure, Boston is holding up fairly well in comparison with lots of other places, including L.A. "The Boston area has a lot of employment in education, a field that has lost relatively few jobs," notes Juju.com vice president Brendan Cruickshank. "It's home to a number of large health-care systems, and some thriving high-tech companies along Route 128. Boston also has pretty strong continuing demand for accounting and sales professionals." That's good news for you.

In general, cities like New York and Pittsburgh with highly diversified economies are doing better than the national average, since the overall availability of jobs isn't too heavily dependent on any one industry.

Then too, it helps if there happens to be a concentration of industries that are actually growing. "The best job markets now are those that have a lot of health-care companies, government agencies, and defense contractors," says Cruickshank. "The weakest are those that have been dependent on hospitality, construction, and traditional manufacturing." An exception: In places where there is lots of government but that government is severely strapped for cash, the local job market suffers too, which accounts for Sacramento's dreary score.

The hospitality factor obviously explains why Orlando, Las Vegas, and Miami are hurting. Detroit, of course, has been ravaged by the auto industry's woes. A few cities' rankings are affected by "unique circumstances," Cruickshank notes: "For example, Salt Lake City, in fourth place, is a low-cost location for business, partly because of tax breaks, and it has a skilled labor force." Companies like eBay (EBAY, Fortune 500) have moved their customer-service operations there from high-cost California.

Anyone hoping to find work in a new town is likely to find that having a local mailing address and phone number will help, since many employers prefer to hire people who already live in the area. A friend or relative in Boston might be willing to give you a hand with that before you move, and maybe even help you get a head start on the networking you'll need to do.

"It's always a good idea to set up email alerts on job boards and websites so you're notified whenever a new job is posted that meets your search criteria in the city where you want to move," Cruickshank says. "But you also need to pinpoint specific companies where you'd like to work and try to get to know people who already work there."

The more research and networking you can do before you start packing, the better your chances of finding what you want. Every city has a chamber of commerce (for Boston's, see http://www.bostonchamber.com/) that offers a wealth of information about local employers, including mailing addresses and phone numbers, so be sure to check that out. Good luck!

Talkback: Have you ever moved to find a job? How did it work out for you? Tell us on Facebook, below. To top of page

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