Want to Live in California Where Your Salary Goes Further? Check Out Sacramento, Indeed says
Money isn’t everything. Cities with the highest adjusted salaries tend to have higher unemployment and weaker future job prospects.
That tempting big salary might not be all it seems. That’s because places where pay is high tend to be more expensive. Jobs offers tend to be high in the Bay Area, Boston, Washington and New York. But the extra dollars you get go right back out to pay for higher rents and pricier meals.
Adjusted for living costs, you get more in your pocket in places that are not in the big coastal cities, but in less attention-getting places like Brownsville, TX, Kingsport, TN, and Huntington, WV.
But before you move to Kingsport, Tennessee, know this: such places often have other challenges. They tend to have higher unemployment and are projected to have slower job growth.
And let’s face it, you might not want to move across the country, far from family, friends or weather you love, to a place where jobs in your field are scarce. That’s fine. You can probably move somewhere not too far away with a similar mix of jobs and boost your standard of living at the same time — for example, by relocating from Tampa to Birmingham, or from San Diego to Sacramento. Most places have relatively close-by sister cities where adjusted salaries are at least a bit higher.
If you want it all — high adjusted salaries, low unemployment today, and good future prospects — look at this list below, served up by Indeed’s Hiring Lab:
Before adjusting for cost of living, America’s highest salaries are in metro San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley. To see this, we calculated the average salary for all Indeed job postings between July 2017 and June 2018 that included information on annual salaries, accounting for differences in the local job mix. For the same occupations, salaries are on average 19% higher in San Francisco than in San Antonio and 18% higher in Boston than in Cleveland.
But San Antonio and Cleveland are cheaper than San Francisco and Boston. Housing costs less, as do other goods and services. Adjusted for living costs, salaries are actually 11% higher in San Antonio than in San Francisco and 5% higher in Cleveland than in Boston.
Among the 185 US metropolitan areas with at least 250,000 people, salaries adjusted for living costs are highest in Brownsville-Harlingen, TX, Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA, and Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH. Of the top 10, only Birmingham-Hoover has more than a million people. Larger metros have higher unadjusted salaries, but much higher living costs than smaller metros. As a result, adjusted salaries tend to be higher in smaller metros. The million-plus metros with the highest adjusted salaries are Birmingham-Hoover, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Memphis and San Antonio.
These are moves that get you a higher standard of living and similar job opportunities — all just a short flight or day’s drive away. Those adjusted-salary differences might sound small relative to the gap between extremes: Brownsville’s adjusted salaries are 51% higher than Honolulu’s, and Kingsport’s are 37% higher than those in Santa Cruz. But you’d need to move a long distance to a very different labor market — and hope to find a job that fits you — in order to claim that higher standard of living. All else equal, a higher adjusted salary is better than a lower one. But in job hunting — like so many other things — all else is never equal.
Where Indeed got their data:
Salary data are from all job postings with annual salaries on Indeed between July 2017 and June 2018. Unadjusted average salaries are based on weighted median deviations across occupations, which accounts for the different mix of job titles across metros in order to make an apples-to-apples comparison of unadjusted salaries.
Local cost-of-living data are from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis regional price parities for 2016, released May 2018. These cost-of-living data reflect local differences in the price of housing, other services and physical goods. Unemployment data are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are not seasonally adjusted, unlike the published headline rate. Projected job growth is from Indeed’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics projections.
All 185 U.S. metropolitan areas with at least 250,000 people are included in the rankings.
Distances between metros are great-circle distances between population-weighted metro centroids, which tend to be a bit shorter than actual driving distances.
Unadjusted and adjusted salary data in this blogpost should not be compared with salary data from last year’s blogpost on this topic. The occupational composition of job postings with annual salaries changes over time. Our methodology adjusts for differences in occupational composition across metros at a point in time, but not for differences in occupational composition over time.