Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Summer reading: Where the jobs are

Radford and Blacksburg didn't make the list, but Forbes magazine came up with some interesting locations in its compilation of Top College Towns For Jobs. Charlottesville is number 14, but no other Virginia city made the top 20. (New Mexico, Colorado and Alabama were the only states with two locations on the list.)

The article's "in depth" slide show is rather shallow, but does report the percentage of workers in university jobs and the area's job growth since 2008, along with the name of a local university. (Durham, N.C., is listed with Duke, but no mention of the lighter blue institution less than 10 miles down the road in Chapel Hill.)

“Across business cycles, college towns are steady and predictable,” John Stapleford, senior economist at Moody’s, told Forbes, although he cautioned that losses in university endowments may soon have a negative effect on the schools' own spending and new-job creation.

When schools DO have money to spend, the effect is magnified, he said, estimating that each new job on-campus creates a need for another half or whole job off-campus to meet the needs of the school, its students, employees and visitors. The Forbes article doesn't discuss any other forces that might be at work on the local economies, such as cuts in state budgets for public universities, or whether last year's employment data could be a one-time-only "bump" in some communities.

While jobs nationwide were down 3.5 percent for the past year, according to Forbes reading of Moody's March to March stats, 62 college towns showed an increase. Forbes' top-20 list -- In Depth: Top College Towns For Jobs -- is presented as a tedious one-at-a-time slide show in countdown order. If you don't have the patience for that, here are the metro areas, starting with No. 1:
  1. Provo, Utah
  2. Morgantown,W.Va.
  3. Durham, N.C.
  4. Athens, Ga.
  5. Fargo, N.D.
  6. Hattiesburg, Miss.
  7. Iowa City, Iowa
  8. Seattle, Wash.
  9. Baton Rouge, La.
  10. Las Cruces, N.M.
  11. College Station, Texas
  12. Charlottesville, Va.
  13. Tuscaloosa, Ala.
  14. Auburn, Ala.
  15. Fort Collins, Colo.
  16. Oklahoma City, Okla.
  17. Boulder, Colo.
  18. Albuquerque, N.M.
  19. Jonesboro, Ark.
  20. San Jose, Calif.
I wish Forbes also had compiled "job vacancies" data, which might make this a great list of "places to work your way through grad school." I kept looking for a place to click-through to more data. Instead, if you let the slide show keep running, it jumps to a list of "Top 10 Weird Celebrity Family Connections." So much for "news you can use."

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