How to evaluate the job market when deciding where to move...
March 3, 2013 10:56 PM   Subscribe

Partner and I are deciding which of his grad school offers to accept/which new town to move to next year: Austin, TX, Athens, GA or Tucson, AZ currently. What resources/methods can I use to help me figure out if I will be able to find a job in these places?

Are there other ways to evaluate a job market without simply performing a job search, or is that just the answer? I'm a bit unsure about career paths but my general interests and experience include art and museums, education, youth development, "the environment", farming, speaking Spanish, non-profits... (I'm also looking at grad school options but that's a separate endeavor, I think.)
posted by dahliachewswell to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Strike Tucson from your list unless that school is preferable above all.

Austin is the way to go if you want a lifestyle worth living.

I have zero experience or opinions about Athens.
posted by jbenben at 11:24 PM on March 3, 2013

I don't know anything about finding jobs (they exist, people get them somehow???), but I will say Athens is a lovely place, obviously much smaller than the other two, which I count as a good thing.
posted by Buckt at 11:27 PM on March 3, 2013

I moved to Tucson for work 8 months ago and love it here. You can feel free to memail me with any specific questions.
posted by honeybee413 at 3:31 AM on March 4, 2013

Athens is wonderful, smaller but fairly close to Atlanta. It's a great place to live.
posted by pearlybob at 4:00 AM on March 4, 2013

Austin's job market is great if you have technology skills and startup experience. It also has the University of Texas and the state government as big employers.

Tucson is a rapidly growing city and, as such, has a number of employers looking to hire. What kind of jobs are available there, I don't know. I suspect that if you are somewhat ambitious in your career, it will offer fewer opportunities for growth than Austin. I don't know if that's an issue for you.

I've never been to Athens, GA.
posted by dfriedman at 5:00 AM on March 4, 2013

"Small" isn't necessarily a plus for a trailing spouse -- a smaller town often means both fewer opportunities and worse opportunities for someone whose geographic mobility is constrained by their partner's need to be in a particular place. If all the schools were genuinely equal, I'd strike Athens from your list on that basis.

I also love Austin just as a matter of taste.
posted by gerryblog at 5:09 AM on March 4, 2013

I would go to your job search engine of choice (monster , idealist, Craigslist), do a search for positions in your field, and see which come up with more results. Then compare that with cost and quality of living tools for each place.
posted by greta simone at 5:26 AM on March 4, 2013

Austin seems to fit your interests really well, and there's a number of universities around so may be easier to find grad programs for yourself. With the number of students in the area finding part-time retail/etc employment can be competitive, so I think you'd need to research more closely based on your experience and start thinking about job titles you'd explore.

You can subscribe to the RSS feeds on indeed for the various cities for various job titles to get a sense for what's out there, and start researching/making a list of companies in your field(s).
posted by ejaned8 at 6:40 AM on March 4, 2013

I think job prospects would be best in Austin. There are many high tech firms there (Dell being the one that sticks out most in my mind) also, the state government. It's a young and growing city, with a great culture.

Tucson is nice, but not a lot of company HQ's are there.

I live in Atlanta and Athens is 90 minutes away. I know some people who split the difference, with one commuting to Athens and the other commuting to the Atlanta Metroplex. Athens is a small University town, with not a whole lot else there. So employment is going to be low pay, and hard to find.

The best way is to go to some good job sites:

Do some searches and you'll see the difference in the quality of jobs available in each area.

If I were in your shoes, Hook 'em Horns!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:18 AM on March 4, 2013

Athens has ATL jobs, but I'd move to Austin.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:24 AM on March 4, 2013

As a recent transplant to Austin, I'd say come here.

From your interests, I think you'd fit in fine (and if you want more info memail me).

I've never been to Athens or Tuscon, but Athens seemed to me to be more of a college town outside Atlanta, and Tuscon -- well that seems to be where some of my older family members have retired to.
posted by hrj at 8:06 AM on March 4, 2013

I REALLY appreciate all these answers and people chiming in with personal experience BUT I guess I should have been more general and left out the geographic info because that seems to be distracting. What I'd really love is any concrete, how-to advice on my main question: "What resources/methods can I use to help me figure out if I will be able to find a job?" Anyone done this before and found a good technique?
posted by dahliachewswell at 9:14 AM on March 4, 2013

I would suggest following Ruthless Bunny's advice and add to your search list.

By searching for jobs posted now in the area you're looking at, you can get a sense of how many jobs might be available in the future.

You can also look at the business articles in the local paper's website to get a sense of the local economy.

You can check the local unemployment rate (which is often reported in the local paper).
posted by elmay at 9:29 AM on March 4, 2013

Go to your local business library. Do a database search based on NAICs and SICs codes that correlate to what you want to do, and find out how many smaller employers exist in those areas. Smaller employers have a lot of advantages (though insurance is not one of them). They are more likely to hire people and have flexibility in the job role - my husband works for a much smaller company, but gets to flex a lot more in what he does than I do at my employer. If you have a lot of soft skills or a lot of curiosity, if you're more project-driven than role-driven, if you roll your eyes at people who say, "That's not my job", when a project needs all hands on deck... then a smaller company is better to work for.

Make a list also of the biggest employers in each town. Then, if you can, Google or otherwise pull their 10k statement to see how financially healthy they are.

Read the local business journal for each town. e.g. Athens' small one here, the larger one for Austin.

Find out what kind of temp pool and how many positions the university has available.

Because college is the "industry" in all three towns, you need to confirm whether there's healthy growth off the plantation. For instance, I would think twice before accepting a position in Charlottesville, Virginia, because of what I've heard and read about the community, being unusually dominated by the UVA.

Austin has a reputation for incubating technology startups, and other indie businesses and freelancers. I can't speak to the others, but I would read the magazine published by the major universities and see if there are any new businesses started by alumns that might be hungry to hire. Read the class notes; read the feature stories.

Read the business section of the local paper.

I must also emphasize the dark side of college towns (I'm a college town brat and went to undergrad in yet another huge college town). So many people think that these are just the best places to live in the world - the culture, the laidback nature, the emphasis on education - that they stay after graduation. In my hometown, the desire of so many people to stick around meant that the economic prospects were depressed. As a high school student, there were a lot of part-time jobs being eaten up by college students. College students, by contrast, couldn't get jobs because they were competing with masters' degree and PhD grads. I remember both the downtown music shop and bookstores had their pick of brilliant graduate students and ABDs, and wouldn't even consider you for a retail position with a mere BA or high school diploma. Frankly, this is also the major drawback I saw in Portland, Oregon, a town I've also spent some time searching for work, and where one of my best friends still lives, still horribly underemployed. Lots of bright people and dreamers - but not enough upwardly mobile positions to satisfy everyone.

From my experience in Austin, it's not quite that bad there, except in specific industries like film (which is already an area where people are willing to work for almost nothing). There's also been, in the last decade, a lot of money and jobs moving to the Sun Belt. But be aware that there are a LOT of young, talented people who may want to stay in the area, and may be willing to work for nothing (i.e. "course credit").

You get ahead in those areas by networking and developing relationships. So find out what kind of conferences the area hosts in the areas you're interested in; what kind of networking organizations they have (Austin has a ton). Even find out what kind of nonprofits are around that are tied to your professional interests or can use your professional strengths. I am also a former military spouse and I used volunteering with nonprofits when the pickings for good jobs at my husband's station were exceptionally weak; you can do that too.

Consider also plugging in numbers into a cost of living calculator to compare the locations.

And, while you'll have to ignore some of the racist yahoos who also post in the forums, is a valuable resource too, both on the main data page, and the forums. Just take everything with a grain of salt. Someone described my very safe, very middle class neighborhood here in Texas as "sketchy"... presumably because our racial diversity matches the nation as a whole.

Good luck. I think all three towns have a lot of benefits. Make it work for you.
posted by mitschlag at 4:41 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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