Job Havens: The Best Small- to Medium-Sized Cities

Last Updated Apr 13, 2009 7:57 PM EDT

Bigger isn't always better — these small- to medium-sized cities are particularly well-positioned to weather the economic crisis and provide professional employment.


Washington, D.C.


Unemployment Rate:

4.7 percent
Top Salary Quintile:

$153,700
Projected 10-Year Job Growth (Annualized):

0.7 percent
Top Job Categories:

Civil service, professional services, legal work, state and local government

The nation’s capital tends to thrive in times of recession thanks to an increase in government spending, so it’s no surprise that many white-collar workers from across the country were arriving in D.C. even before President Obama made his first phone call from the Oval Office. Among the prime beneficiaries of new federal contracts are D.C.’s professionals — IT workers, PR hounds, and lawyers. George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis predicts that over the next few years, more than 38,000 jobs will be added in the city alone, plus another 190,000 in outlying suburbs.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire



Unemployment Rate:

3.9 percent
Top Salary Quintile:

$122,400
Projected 10-Year Job Growth (Annualized):

0.6 percent
Top Job Categories:

Professional services, computer-systems consulting

More seaside kitsch than cosmopolitan, Portsmouth has become a refuge for professional-services folk who have tired of the bustle of Boston, located 50 miles south. One of the few cities with an unemployment rate that remained steady through last year, Portsmouth boasts a number of small companies in the public relations, tax, and IT-consulting industries that draw work from bigger firms located in Boston; Nashua, New Hampshire; and Portland, Maine. In addition, many of the area’s computer-systems consultants contract work from companies around the country.

Des Moines, Iowa


Unemployment Rate:

4.5 percent
Top Salary Quintile:

$99,000
Projected 10-Year Job Growth (Annualized):

1.2 percent
Top Job Categories:

Business and financial services

Downtown Des Moines experienced a renaissance in the 1990s when city planners started to renovate it. Today, the city’s center features a mix of modern architecture and traditional office buildings, home to steadily growing financial firms that didn’t participate heavily in the real estate boom. As a result, the city’s home prices have remained stable and more than 26,000 business-service jobs have been added over the past few years, driven by niche-oriented insurance firms, computer-systems companies, and agricultural corporations.

Sources:

  • 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 Economy.com