Are These The 50 Best Metro Areas For Recent College Grads?

Let’s cut to the chase. For a lot of people right now, moving probably seems like a really bad idea. And with the job market at a generational low, it’s not exactly the rosiest time to be graduating from college. But for those students on the job hunt with the fortitude to move, Apartment List has put together a new pandemic-adjusted ranking of the best 50 metro areas for recent college graduates.

Past versions of the list have included metrics in the methodology that measure job prospects with opportunities for socializing and activities. Since most socializing and activities are currently shut down in metro areas across the country, Apartment List adjusted this year’s ranking to look at job prospects and resilience of local markets in a “quarantine economy.”

It likely comes as little surprise that the technology-rich San Francisco Bay Area dominates the top of this year’s list. The Bay is often referred to as a bubble with its own market and ecosystem that is usually unaffected by global markets. And Apartment List’s metrics like it for that resiliency. San Jose — directly in the middle of Silicon Valley — tops this year’s list. Its northern neighbor of San Francisco comes in second.


Apartment list created the ranking across six equally-weighted factors including average wages of recent college grads (according to federal data from 2018), March unemployment rates, the cost burden rate among college grads that pay rent, percentage of adult population with a college degree, percentage of recent college grads in positions that are “amenable” to remote work, and the percentage of the region’s labor force in “high-risk” occupations.

Of those six factors, San Jose placed first in all but two — the March unemployment rate and cost burden, which ranked 30th. “Taken together, we expect San Jose will be able to bounce back from the coronavirus recession quicker than most,” the writers of the report said.

San Francisco didn’t outright win any of the six methodological categories but placed second in average wages (behind San Jose) and work from home friendliness (also behind San Jose).

“It’s important to keep in mind that for the graduating class of 2020, social life takes the backseat to economic vitality,” the report said of the Northern California city. “And while San Francisco falls just short of the top spot in our economic rankings, you’ll also want to consider life post-Coronavirus. Young college graduates typically flock to San Francisco for its rich culture, temperate climate, and natural beauty. Just be prepared to rent with a roommate (or four).”

Following the Bay Area cities is Washington, D.C. in third place. The D.C. metro area placed second in percentage of adults with college degrees and third in work from home friendliness. Following D.C. is Boston in fourth place. Like the three metro areas ahead of it, Boston is expensive. But it also has high rates of college grads, low unemployment, and low percentages of workers in high-risk occupations, thanks largely to a burgeoning tech scene. Rounding out the top five is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Perched on the shores of Lake Michigan just north of Chicago, Milwaukee placed second in cost burden and having a low percentage of high-risk working positions.

Besides the Bay Area domination, the report points to two other trends. Mid-size cities, especially in the Midwest, perform well. And major metro areas like New York City (12th), Los Angeles (42nd), Chicago (23rd), Dallas (21st), and Houston (26th) don’t perform as well. Meanwhile, more unassuming metro areas like Minneapolis (seventh), Raleigh (eighth), Indianapolis (10th), and Kansas City (15th) outpunch their weight.

“While these metros don’t command the highest salaries, they offer affordable housing options and well-rounded economies driven by essential industries,” the report said of the Midwestern metro areas.

At the bottom of the list is Las Vegas, which has been hit hard by the spread of the Coronavirus. Hospitality has been one of the most affected industries by COVID-19, and Vegas has suffered because of it. Riverside, California is the next metro area at the bottom of the list. Following Riverside are New Orleans, Miami, and Orlando, respectively.

See the next page for the entire list of best 50 metro areas according to Apartment List.

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