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America's Best Cities for Young Professionals

America’s Best Cities for Young Professionals

by Morgan Brennan

With the unemployment rate stuck above 9%, recent college graduates are facing fierce competition for white-collar work: More than 2 million college-educated workers 25 and older are unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But prospects are much brighter in some cities than others.

Behind the Numbers

To determine the best cities for young professionals, which we define as adults aged from 24 to 34 who hold a Bachelor's degree or higher, we started with the 100 largest U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (cities and the suburbs surrounding them) as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. We assessed these cities based on seven factors, weighting them evenly: local unemployment rates and 2010 to 2012 job growth projections provided by Moody's; Census Bureau data on the number of small businesses (defined as less than 500 employees) per capita, as well as the number of large businesses; the median salaries for 24- to 34-year-old employed college graduates, provided by; Moody's cost-of living index, to gauge how far those paychecks will go; and the percentage of the population aged 25 and older with college degrees in the area.

In second place on our list: Raleigh, N.C.The college town turned boom town, which tops our Best Places for Business and Careers list this year, has the fourth best job growth outlook of the cities we studied (2% a year for 2010-12) and a 7.9% unemployment rate that's well below the national average. With an abundance of colleges and universities in the area such as University of North Carolina and Duke University, and Research Triangle, a major center for high-tech and biotech research, more than 42% of the local population touts BA degrees, making it the most educated of the cities we looked at.

2. Raleigh, N.C.

M.S.A.: Raleigh-Cary, N.C.
Average Annual Job Growth (2010-2012): 2%
Median salary: $51,500
Cost-of-living index (U.S. average is 100): 104.4
Percent of pop. with college degrees: 42.2%
1 small business for every 49 residents
1 large business for every 770 residents
Unemployment rate: 7.9%

The college town has one of the best job growth projections of any city we assessed and the 16th best average salary for young professionals, exceeded only by markedly more expensive cities.








Laura Bromhal