Top Cities for New College Grads

The most promising region in the U.S. for job hunting by newly minted college graduates is the South, and the city with the best mix of job openings, pay, and affordability is Houston, according to

In a ranking by the magazine of 30 cities, the top five are Houston, Washington, Dallas, Atlanta, and Austin, Tex. The winners prevailed mostly because employers in those places posted the greatest number of jobs for new graduates. Employers listing openings on AfterCollege, a website featuring entry-level positions, totaled 90 in Washington, second only to New York's 108.

A private-sector push in Houston has created 31,000 positions since January, including 10,800 in May, said Jeff Moseley, president of the Greater Houston Partnership, an advocacy group for the business community. Houston is the largest city in Texas. A startup culture is taking hold there, in contrast to other parts of the U.S., Moseley said.

"In some parts, it's, 'Who's your daddy?' and 'Where'd you go to school?' " Moseley said in an interview. "Here it's, 'What's your idea, and how can we make money?' "

The ranking was based on the AfterCollege postings, city unemployment rates, and the average annual pay for all occupations as reported by the U.S. Labor Dept. Wages were adjusted for cost of living, using data from the Council for Community & Economic Research, in Arlington, Va. Salaries rose 2.5 percent, to an average of $44,525, for the 30 cities in the 2010 ranking.

Thirteen Newcomers

A similar ranking was made a year ago. This time, 13 cities were new to the selection of 30, and seven of the newcomers are Southern cities, including five from Texas.

Several cities near the top of last year's list didn't make the ranking this year, including last year's No. 1, Indianapolis, and last year's No. 7, Chicago.

Those cities saw a drop in the number of employers posting jobs for new college graduates, said Roberto Angulo, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based AfterCollege Inc., publisher of the website.

One reason behind the shakeup in the list was deterioration in the job market, Angulo said. Even in cities that fared well, the number of employers posting jobs fell. Phoenix was ranked No. 2 in 2009, with 190 employers posting jobs on AfterCollege. This year, Phoenix is No. 19, after just 31 employers listed openings.

In an AfterCollege survey this year, 86 percent of respondents, up from 78 percent in 2009, said they were having a hard time finding a job.

Houston Bound

"The classes of 2009 and 2010 are now competing for the same jobs," Angulo said. "Internships are going to graduates instead of those who are still in school."

William McMullen, a 2008 graduate of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., returned to Houston after a stint in New York, attracted by the growing energy and health-care sectors in Texas, he said.

McMullen, an associate at Boston-based Denham Capital Management LP, a private-equity firm with an energy focus, said low rent and the lack of a state income tax were bonuses.

"Having lived in Boston and New York, the cost of living played a factor in the decision as well," McMullen said.

In Washington, the federal government's expansion has created both public- and private-sector jobs, said Mark Gaswirth, regional sales manager of

Banking Crisis

From 2000 to 2009, the region added almost 300,000 jobs, according to the Greater Washington Board of Trade, a promotional group. A diverse and well-educated population, reflecting the presence of the State Dept., embassies, and universities, is also appealing to new college graduates, said Jim Dinegar, president of the board.

The U.S. banking crisis that began in 2008 helped give Washington its jobs boost, said Barbara B. Lang, president of the DC Chamber of Commerce. Opportunities for lawyers, accountants, and other professionals are growing along with government oversight of finance, she said.

"Wall Street has moved to K Street," Lang said, "K Street" being shorthand for the locus of lobbyists, policy researchers, and the like.

The number of employers posting jobs and the adjusted pay contributed 40 percent each to the ranking this year. Unemployment accounted for 20 percent.

The methodology changed. Last year, employers counted for 40 percent, while unadjusted pay, cost of living, and unemployment were weighted at 20 percent each.

The 30 cities on the list this year were culled from an initial pool of 3,580 municipalities where employers posted at least one job on the AfterCollege website. The cities with the most listings were used for the ranking.