Top Major Metro Area Great For College Grads

July 02, 2014

All the pieces seem to come together for one U.S. city when it comes to best places to live and work for recent college graduates.  Denver tops the charts in a number of key areas including, employment opportunities, wages, affordable housing and lifestyle for millennials looking to relocate right out of college. 


Excellent Prospects For Employment


For starters, the state of Colorado is one of only a handful of states in the nation to fully recover all of its jobs lost in the recent recession, coming in fourth in job growth for the country overall.  That’s not all.  According to Nathan Kelley, economist for Moody’s Analytics, Colorado wages are 18 percent higher than the nation’s average.


The state continues to expand in a variety of industries including construction, aerospace, energy and tech-related fields.  Many science and tech-based jobs are growing and require entry-level college graduates to fill positions.  While recent grads will obviously have to find the right match for their particular skill set, according to Moody’s director, Steven Cochrane, “The broad economic environment ought to be pretty good.”


While the West appears to be growing the fastest for jobs available in a particular region, Colorado specifically has worked to attract major companies to the area including DaVita, Arrow Electronics and Redwood Trust who’ve created thousands of new, high paying positions.  "There are a lot of things going for Denver that are really putting it ahead of the pack," added Moody’s economist.


Affordable Housing put Denver in the number one spot for "Top 10 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates."  While cities ranked based on employment, wages, career potential, affordability and “city scene”, Denver was also chosen for the top spot based on the city’s unemployment rate, (under seven percent) and the cost of a one-bedroom apartment, (below 25 percent of an earner’s gross median income).


The affordability factor that affected the top ranking for recent college grads includes the price of a one-bedroom rental of about $1,248 per month based on a median annual income of $64,267.  With unemployment scarcely breaking 4.3 percent and the median age of residents at 31.5, the city is an attractive choice for recent college grads.  In fact, for the past few years the state of Colorado has ranked fourth among the states with the youngest population (ages 25-29).

Ryan McMaken, economist for the Colorado Division of Housing warns against unrealistic expectations however.  "If you are expecting to move here and get a one-bedroom apartment and live on your own, unless you have a pretty decent job, that probably is not realistic".  The average college grad, just out of school will have to make no less than $47,500 a year to be able to comfortably afford a one-bedroom apartment he points out.


That’s not going to be a problem for most up and coming residents with degrees in technical fields and computer science according to Moody’s Nathan Kelley.  Much of the demand for employees in Denver is directed toward these fields with starting salaries well above numbers needed to make a go of it in Denver’s metropolitan area.


Josh Wright, data analyst for EMSI, a labor market and economic data firm points out that Denver employs 24 percent more workers in positions that require special technical training or a college degree than the national average.  This puts Denver seventh among 50 metro areas in the nation and just behind San Jose, Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Austin.  The company, EMSI projects about 12, 687 skilled jobs will be added in 2014 to the Denver metro area as well.  Software development, accounting, computer analysis and civil engineering are among the top fields where many highly skilled, well-educated employees will make high wages.



Skilled Labor Positions


The demand for precision machining capabilities has grown recently and companies are finding it more and more difficult to find a pool of skilled employees to choose from.  As companies begin to move manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., Denver area colleges including Front Range Community College work to provide programs that train individuals for specific jobs in the area as well.  Mold makers/machinists are  highly sought after according to senior manufacturing engineer, Larry Hartman of Mountainside Medical that manufactures surgical instruments.  Positions such as these will continue to bolster an already strong workforce in the Denver metro area.