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Economy

The Cities Where You Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

There may be another metro within a day’s drive where the costs of living are a lot lower and salaries go a lot further. Is is worth moving?
Job hunters in Williston, North Dakota. Metros with strong job growth and a better ratio of salary-to-cost-of-living tend to be in the nation's interior.
Job hunters in Williston, North Dakota. Metros with strong job growth and a better ratio of salary-to-cost-of-living tend to be in the nation's interior.Andrew Cullen/Reuters

Towns with positive job growth, where residents get the biggest bang for their salary buck, are not your New Yorks or San Franciscos. They’re places like Duluth, Minnesota; Wilmington, North Carolina; and Lubbock, Texas. And even if you’re not about to up and move away from family and networks for these perks, there may be another city less than day’s drive away that has a lower cost of living.

A new analysis identifies those places and their relative benefits by salary and cost of living. Jed Kolko, the chief economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, compares cities based on their average annual salaries in the time period from July 2017 to June 2018. After controlling for the difference in the types of jobs available in each city, he finds that a city like San Francisco—unsurprisingly—offers salaries that are 19 percent higher on average than, say, San Antonio. The problem, though, is that this comparison doesn’t account for the fact that the cost of goods and services—especially, housing—is far higher in San Francisco. After adjusting for that cost, San Antonio’s average paycheck ends up being 11 percent higher than San Francisco’s. In other words, each dollar in a San Antonio resident pocket goes a lot further, all else being equal.