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Job Havens: The Best Large Cities

Last Updated Aug 3, 2009 2:24 PM EDT

The outlook is grim, especially if you've recently lost your job. The nation's unemployment rate recently hit its highest point in 25 years and most major cities around the country and the globe are likely to experience major job losses in 2009. However, if you're looking for a place to weather the financial storm, some cities offer better shelter than others, and we've come up with a list of the best ones in three categories — large, small-to-medium, and international.

To find them, we examined the most recent employment and wage data and spoke to economists and labor experts to get some of the information behind the numbers. Read on to see our picks.

Austin, Texas

Unemployment Rate:

5.2 percent
Top Salary Quintile:

Projected 10-Year Job Growth (Annualized):

2.8 percent
Top Job Categories:

Clean-tech software, education, financial services

While layoffs are expected at Austin’s big technology firms, the city has seen an explosion of high-tech business incubators where entrepreneurs are fostering and financing a cluster of software startups, many of them clean tech-related. The city’s biggest employers — the state government and the University of Texas — are also expected to add a couple thousand jobs this year, but growth won’t hit last year’s record gains of about 19,000 new jobs. Austin may, however, benefit from the federal stimulus package aimed at green tech, for which the city is working on an initiative to transform its semiconductor plants into solar-chip-manufacturing factories.

Seattle, Washington

Unemployment Rate:
6.1 percent
Top Salary Quintile:

Projected 10-Year Job Growth (Annualized):

1.5 percent
Top Job Categories:

Software engineering, alternative energy development, video game design

Even as layoffs at Boeing, Microsoft, and Starbucks start to lift Seattle’s unemployment rate, the city’s economists still expect job growth in technology, where talent from big firms is being funneled into entrepreneurial startups. While the city hopes to grow its green-tech market — Seattle is home to one of the nation’s largest producers of biodiesel and a government fleet of cars that runs on various types of alternative energy — venture capitalists have also invested about $215 million in the city’s software sector, from energy-efficient building-services firms to grid-energy upstarts to internet-based video game makers.

Houston, Texas

Unemployment Rate:

5.5 percent
Top Salary Quintile:

Projected 10-Year Job Growth (Annualized):

2.2 percent
Top Job Categories:

Engineering, geology, health care

It wasn’t so long ago that Houston was a decidedly blue-collar town, but today, anchored by the world’s largest oil and gas firms, the city is an R&D hotbed for engineers, geologists, and IT experts whose skills are sought by multinational corporations. Spiking oil prices and steady home prices helped Houston add more jobs than any other U.S. city last year. This year, rig counts are expected to decline and the city’s core sector will wilt. But economists expect a boom in health-sector jobs, thanks to an expansion of downtown’s Texas Medical Center, one of the largest health care facilities in the world.


  • Unemployment Rate — Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 2009
  • Top Salary Quintile — Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2007
  • Projected 10-Year Job Growth (Annualized) — Bureau of Labor Statistics and Moody’s