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Start a career? Raleigh and Durham rank among the top 20 cities in the United States to do so

RALEIGH- Raleigh and Durham rank among the best places in the country to launch a career, according to a new report.

Those seeking their first job opportunity are in high demand—the unemployment rate for workers aged 20-24 has fallen below 7%.

Out of more than 180 cities across the country, Raleigh ranked 15th and Durham 18th in relative market strength for early career opportunities in the WalletHub report released Monday.

While Raleigh’s ranking has improved from 17th place a year ago, Durham’s ranking has fallen from 9th to 18th, according to data analyzed by WalletHub.

“The increasingly strong and diverse economic, educational and training opportunities across the Triangle make our entire region an even more attractive place to start a career in almost any industry,” said Ryan Regan, vice president of the economic development at the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, in an interview with WRAL TechWire.

Each of the cities analyzed was measured by 27 key measures in two categories: professional opportunity and quality of life. In one measure, called by the study “entrepreneur friendliness”, Durham and Raleigh ranked in the top 10. But Durham’s ranking fell from second overall in last year’s analysis to fourth in the overall in 2022, while Raleigh fell one spot from seventh to eighth in that category.

Salt Lake City, Orlando, Atlanta, Austin and Seattle took the top five spots.

With a growing number of positions available remotely, the Triangle is also among the best parts of the country to move to for remote work, according to a 2021 study.

Raleigh, Durham among top 15 cities to move to for remote jobs

Raleigh’s strengths and opportunities

According to the analysis, while Raleigh ranked 15th overall, the city was 8th in quality of life measures. That’s led by a median annual income of $75,048, 10th in the study, which ranks higher than Austin, Texas, which had a median annual income of $74,854.

Raleigh also outperformed Austin, Texas in housing affordability. And while Raleigh’s projected population growth ranked fourth overall, Austin’s ranked first.

“Raleigh is a great place to start a career because our community strikes a compelling balance between a solid quality of life and broad career opportunities,” said Adrienne Cole, President and CEO of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce in an interview with WRAL TechWire. “The region’s diverse economy, thriving ecosystem of small businesses and start-ups, and continued growth year on year means there’s no shortage of amazing community amenities.”

But the city ranked 37th for “fun friendliness,” according to WalletHub data, and 27th for “family friendliness.”

And in all career opportunity metrics, Raleigh ranked 29th overall.

This is due to the city’s ranking 42nd in entry-level job availability and 86th in median income growth rate, with growth of just 4.42%. And Raleigh also ranked 75th for workforce diversity.

Still, Cole said, the region’s life sciences and technology industries continue to attract people at many career stages.

“The region fosters innovation in these sectors, and others, which makes us an attractive location for young professionals,” said Cole. “Plus, we have a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that attracts so many people.”

But the category in which Raleigh ranks near the bottom of all cities measured is the region’s underemployment rate, which WalletHub calculated at 7.7%, ranking the city 172nd.

In 2018, Raleigh ranked 9th overall in WalletHub analysis.

Study: Raleigh ranks 12th, Durham 25th, among more than 1,000 cities as the best place to live

Durham’s strengths and opportunities

Durham ranked 18th in the 2022 analysis, falling nine places from ninth place in 2021.

What happened?

While Durham has remained a strong performer in job opportunity measures, such as fourth in average monthly earnings and first overall for the city’s unemployment rate at just 3%, the city’s rankings have dropped in other measures.

This includes year-over-year declines in measures of entry-level job availability, including the 85th to 128th drop in the annual job growth rate as the city measured a negative rate 0.27% in this year’s analysis.

But there’s one Durham-based employer hiring a slew of entry-level jobs that don’t require a degree. This is Fidelity Investments, which earlier this quarter announced plans to hire up to 1,700 new workers in North Carolina, many of whom are based in Durham.

“Given the unique nature of today’s job market, many companies have revamped their recruitment tactics, and entry-level candidates are the main beneficiaries,” said Ryan Regan, vice president of economic development at the Chamber of Commerce of the Greater Durham, which noted that Fidelity jobs are intentionally targeted at entry-level applicants from non-traditional career backgrounds, such as hospitality workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

And a strength of the region, Regan said, is the quality of educational pathways for early career professionals.

“It’s hard to overstate how much of an asset our regional 2- and 4-year institutions of higher education are when it comes to connecting new graduates to regional employment opportunities,” said Regan. WalletHub’s analysis did not include quality of education as one of the key indicators studied for the ranking report.

Durham ranked 11th in a 2020 study by LinkedIn as a place to get a first job.

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