Even as the nation climbs out the Great Recession, California still has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. But a closer look reveals thriving pockets of exciting job growth, generally surrounding the state’s major metro areas. So where can California job seekers find their future? Here’s how we decided on our top 10 picks:
Is the city growing? We assessed growth in the working-age population, ages 16 and older, from 2009 to 2011 to ensure that the city was attracting workers and showing population growth. We only included cities with populations of 40,000 or more .
Can you afford to live in the city comfortably? We looked at a city’s median household income to see if workers made a good living. We also analyzed the monthly homeowner costs, including mortgage payments, to see if the city had a reasonable cost of living.
Are most people employed? We looked at the unemployment rate.
The Best Cities in California for Job Seekers:
1. San Ramon
Located 34 miles east from the heart of San Francisco, San Ramon boasts low crime rates, an educated workforce and the state’s second lowest unemployment rate—just 3 percent of its residents were out of work in 2011. Over half the adults have bachelor’s degrees and the median household income in 2011, at $124,014, was the eighth highest in the state. The city’s boundaries are also expanding since it has been annexing surrounding communities since 1994 as part of a deal with Contra Costa County. San Ramon is home to corporate offices for Chevron and AT&T and sits within 25 miles of nearly every university in the East Bay, including the well-renowned University of California Berkeley. There is plenty of activities for the weekends — residents can golf at one of the city’s seven courses as well as hike in Mt. Diablo State Park. Kids can enjoy the city’s Central Park, which offers 35 acres of open fields and awesome jungle gyms.
There is a lot more to this town than its prison, which was made famous by the Johnny Cash song Folsom Prison Blues. Folsom, located approximately 25 miles east of Sacramento, has a low unemployment rate at just 4 percent and one of the lowest monthly homeowner costs ($2,608, with mortgage included), of our top 10 list. Folsom saw modest population growth of 6.9 percent between 2009 and 2011 and is the home of the research and development headquarters for Intel Corporation, which employs about 7,000 local workers. Kikkoman Foods, Jadoo Power and Verizon also have offices in the city. The former gold rush town offers museums, trails and boating on nearby Folsom Lake. It’s also the new starting location for the Amgen Tour of California, an eight-day bike journey across the state.
There’s no separating Cupertino from Apple Inc. The tech giant is headquartered in this Bay Area city, which has some of the highest income and expenses in the state. But for people with the right skills, Cupertino can be paradise. Over 75 percent of residents work in the scientific, business or management industries, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Cupertino just approved a new 2.8-million-square-foot campus for Apple, and the company estimates that by 2016, about 23,000 of its employees will call Cupertino home. Other large employers in Cupertino include Verigy, Durect Corporation, and Seagate. The local De Anza College offers workforce training and transfer credits for students who enroll in the California state university system.
4. Palo Alto
Is there another city that more exemplifies the greatness of Silicon Valley? The weather is perfect, the people are beautiful, and all the kids are above average. There is a lot to love about Palo Alto. The city had the 10th lowest unemployment rate in the state in 2011 at just 3.6 percent.. Palo Alto is California’s best-educated city with 79.7 percent of residents holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. Just like Cupertino, the monthly homeowner expenses are high, but the median household income is also high- $122,532 in 2011. Along with hundreds of start-up companies, the city’s largest employers include Hewlett Packard, Stanford University, Stanford University Medical Center, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and VMWare Inc. This city is expensive, but with the right job, life can be pretty great here. For aspiring entrepreneurs, Stanford has a tech incubator that gives members access to world-class mentors.
This city lives up to its name. With a cute downtown, two BART commuter train stations, and job opportunities at the city’s largest employers Kaiser Permanente and Oracle, Pleasanton is a friendly city located right next to our top-rated city for job-seekers, San Ramon. Pleasanton’s low unemployment rate, just 3.7 percent, and lower cost of living compared to other Bay Area cities makes it a great choice for job seekers. Its growth rate is lower than some of our other cities, with a 5.8 percent increase in the working-age population between 2009 and 2011, but the unemployment rate has continued to decline from 2009, according to the California Employment Development Department. It is also home to University of San Francisco- Pleasanton Campus, which is geared towards working adults looking to upgrade their education.
6. Elk Grove
This suburb of Sacramento saw a double-digit influx of workers, with a 12.5 percent working-age population growth, between 2009 and 2011. It is easy to see why by looking at the top employers in town. Apple Inc. and Kaiser Permanente both had close to 2,000 Elk Grove residents on their payroll in 2012, according to the city’s annual financial report. The city has the highest unemployment rate of our top cities for job seekers at 7.2 percent,, but it also has the lowest monthly homeowner expenses at $2,293 per month, including mortgage payments. The city is also encouraging businesses to take over industrial spaces in the city limits by waiving some permit requirements and making it easier for businesses to change locations.