Head to These Southern Cities for Low-Cost Living, Well-Paying Jobs

Report lists top 10 cities that are ideal for living and working

By Dana Wilkie Jul 22, 2016
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Houston ranked No. 5 on CareerCast's list of best American cities to live and work.

Looking for a well-paying job in a city with a low cost of living? 


Head South. 

Particularly to Texas. 

Six southern cities—four in Texas and one each in Arizona and North Carolina—are among the top 10 “Best Places to Live and Work,” according to a July 21 report from CareerCast.com that ranked cities based on pay, career opportunities and living expenses. 

“The income a candidate can command is contingent on availability of jobs in a specific region,” said Kyle Kensing, online content editor at CareerCast.com, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based job search portal with local, niche and national job listings from across North America. “For example, the San Francisco Bay Area—which ranks behind only New York City for average cost of living—might be your best value if you work in computer science.”

Four of the top 10 cities—No. 1 Austin, No. 4 Fort Worth, No. 5 Houston and No. 7 Midland—are in Texas. Two other southern cities on the list were No. 3 Durham, N.C., and No. 9 Tucson, Ariz. 
Three cities in Midwestern states—No. 2 Columbus, Ohio, No. 6 Lincoln, Neb., and No. 10 Wausau, Wis.—earned spots on the top 10 list, as did Pittsburgh. 


CareerCast's 10 Best Cities to Live and Work:

City% Below National Cost of LivingMedian Household IncomeUnemployment Rate
1. Austin, Texas-6%$63,6032.9%
2. Columbus, Ohio-10%$56,3713.8%
3. Durham, N.C.-8%$51,9884.2%
4. Fort Worth , Texas0%$52,4303.5%
5. Houston-1%$60,0724.8%
6. Lincoln, Neb.-10%$52,0462.5%
7. Midland, Texas-3%$77,5744.3%
8. Pittsburgh-4%$52,2935.7%
9. Tucson, Ariz.-2%$45,8565%
10. Wausau, Wis.-9%$53,3003.4%

CareerCast.com compiled its list by cross-referencing the average salaries of 200 careers that the company tracks in its Jobs Rated Report, broken down by metropolitan area. CareerCast.com then measured the average cost of living in cities that paid comparatively well in a broad range of industries, using PayScale.com’s Cost of Living Calculator as well as data from the Council for Community and Economic Research, a membership organization that works to improve data availability, enhance data quality and foster learning about regional economic analytic methods.

The report did not examine the “worst” cities in which to work and live, Kensing said. 

Certain regions are best for specific industries, the report noted. Houston ranks in the top 10 nationally for average mean income for jobs spanning different sectors. Jobs that pay well in that city, for instance, include those in the business, energy and transportation industries. Meanwhile, the city’s average cost of living is 1 percent below the national average.

“We cite the industries to convey the hiring climate of the cities and where the highest paying jobs are,” Kensing told SHRM Online. “For example, Midland caters more to the energy industry, while Tucson's a hot spot for health care. Houston's diversity is mentioned specifically to illustrate that it ranks highly across the number of different sectors.”

Throughout the Lone Star State, “there are attractive destinations in terms of pay, diversity of career options and living expense,” the report’s authors noted. Austin and Midland have cost-of-living averages 6 percent and 3 percent below the national average, respectively. The Fort Worth metropolitan area ranks in the top 10 for average salary for three of the Jobs Rated Report’s 35 highest-paying jobs: psychiatrist, actuary and veterinarian.

Cities with major universities tended to rank high, CareerCast.com noted. 

Austin is home to the University of Texas, Lincoln to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Tucson to the University of Arizona, Columbus to Ohio State University, and Durham to Duke University and North Carolina Central University. The report noted that all of these cities have below-average cost-of-living expenses and each ranks high for good salaries in the Jobs Rated Report.

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