The Best — And Worst — Cities For Recent College Grads

Congratulations — you finished college and have your business degree in hand. Now what?

Will you go back home to find work? Or are you ready for a new and different kind of adventure?

Lensa, a professional services company founded in 2015, has released a ranking of the best cities and states for new college grads — and not just in terms of job opportunities. Using a number of metrics, Lensa also has ranked locations by affordability — remember, your first job out of B-school may not be the highest-paid — and lifestyle.

BEST & WORST CITIES

Based on the number of entry-level graduate job openings per 100,000 people, unemployment rate, cost of living, as well as the number of bars, attractions, and restaurants, Lensa ranked the top 50 cities for new college graduates, as well as and states in order of preference. By default, they also have listed the worst places to plant your flag.

For cities, Orlando, Florida is Lensa’s best, based on several factors, including the fact that there are currently 291 listings for entry-level graduate jobs in Orlando for every 100,000 residents — third-highest in all of the U.S. “With so many graduate jobs on offer, it’s easy to see why Orlando has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country,” Lensa declares. “Just 5% of Orlando’s population is unemployed, meaning it’s a city with high economic growth and opportunity.”

Orlando also boasts one of the lowest monthly living costs, with the average single person spending less than $900 per month on living expenses before rent, “leaving more money to spend on nights out” in a city that has more restaurants and attractions than any other in the U.S.: over 900 restaurants and more than 400 attractions for every 100,000 people.

Runners up in the “best cities” sweepstakes: St. Louis and Atlanta, the latter of which was named best for job opportunities. San Jose, California was named best for affordability. And the worst three cities in the ranking? Fresno California; notoriously expensive New York City; and another dusty California town, Bakersfield.

BEST & WORST STATES

Lensa calculated its ranking using unemployment rates, with data taken from bls.gov; the number of nightlife venues, restaurants, and attractions in each city, obtained from Tripadvisor; the average annual income by state in 2021 Q2, and the average income by metropolitan area in 2019, taken from BEA.gov; the monthly cost of living for a single person without rent, from Numbeo; and the cost of living index in each state, taken from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Centre as an average of groceries, housing, transportation, health, and miscellaneous costs.

So what are the best states to move to? Bundle up: The top three all have nasty winters! Minnesota tops the list, with over 200 open entry-level vacancies for graduates per 100,000, and an unemployment rate of just 3.7%, one of the lowest in the country. The state also ranks 15th in the U.S. for annual salary, with residents making on average $64,700 a year. New Hampshire and Nebraska round out the top three; however, Connecticut is tops for affordability

Which begs the question: What are the worst three states for new college grads, according to this ranking? Nevada, Alaska, and Hawaii. Expensive, fewer jobs, and less fun to be had!

See the next pages for Lensa’s complete rankings of the best cities and states for new college grads.

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