Money isn’t everything. Local markets with the highest adjusted salaries tend to have higher unemployment and weaker future job prospects.
That tempting big salary might not be all it seems. That’s because places where pay is high tend to be more expensive. Jobs offer a premium in the Bay Area, Boston, Washington and New York. But those extra dollars go right back out to pay for higher rents and pricier meals. Adjusted for living costs, salaries are highest not in the big coastal metros, but in less attention-getting locales like Brownsville, TX, Kingsport, TN, and Huntington, WV.
But before you reserve that one-way U-Haul to take you to Kingsport, know this: places where adjusted salaries are higher often serve up other challenges. They tend to have higher unemployment today and are projected to have slower job growth. If you want it all — high adjusted salaries, low unemployment today and good future prospects — look instead at Duluth, MN, Wilmington, NC, and Lubbock, TX.
And let’s be realistic. You might not want to trek across the country, far from family, friends or weather you love, to a place where jobs in your field are scarce. That’s fine. You can probably move somewhere not too far away with a similar mix of jobs and boost your standard of living at the same time — for example, by relocating from Tampa to Birmingham or from San Diego to Sacramento. Most places have relatively close-by sister cities where adjusted salaries are at least a bit higher.