The 10 best U.S. cities for new college grads based on job prospects, average income and more

The class of 2023 has made it pretty clear that they are ready and willing to move for job opportunities — and the destination doesn’t have to be a metropolis like New York City or Los Angeles. Zillow revealed exclusively to CNBC Make it, the marketplace’s 2023 ranking of the best places in the U.S. for recent college graduates.

The study analyzed the cities based on the following factors:
  • Rent-to-income ratio
  • Average salary for recent college graduates
  • Job openings
  • Share of the population in their 20s

“Navigating rent affordability can pose challenges for recent graduates entering the housing market, especially if they are doing it for the first time,” Nicole Bachaud, Zillow senior economist, tells CNBC Make It.

“It is important for these graduates to remain mindful of impending student loan repayments that will soon come into play, which will factor into the budgets of many and may impact housing decisions.”

Zillow’s report found that the second-largest markets across the U.S. can offer college graduates a higher quality of life and an accessible cost of living.

Top 10 best U.S. cities for recent college graduates
  1. Colorado Springs, Colo.
  2. Spokane, Wash.
  3. Des Moines, Iowa
  4. Phoenix, Ariz.
  5. Buffalo, Ariz.
  6. Albuquerque, N.M.
  7. Bakersfield, Calif.
  8. Albany, N.Y.
  9. Portland, Ore.
  10. Little Rock, Ark.

Colorado Springs, Colorado, ranked no. 1 on Zillow’s list of the best U.S. cities for recent college graduates. The Zillow Observed Rent Index found that the average rent in the Colorado city is $1,824, compared to $2,031 in Denver, about 90 minutes away. The study found that the average salary for a recent college grad in Colorado Springs is $63,190—which means the rent ratio is 35%. Colorado Springs is home to the University of Colorado: Colorado Springs, and Colorado College, both places that offer employment opportunities to their own recent grads and graduates of nearby colleges like Pikes Peak Community College.

Spokane, Washington, ranks second on the list. The average rent in Spokane is $1,563, compared to Seattle, where it’s $2,223, according to Zillow. And the average salary in the city is $61,162 making the rent-to-income ratio 31%. Like Colorado Springs, Spokane, Washington, is the second-largest city in its state. During the pandemic Spokane saw a rise in remote job postings and has been able to maintain that rate, specifically in areas of technical services, health care, social assistance, finance and insurance.

Rounding out the top three is Des Moines, Iowa. The city is a hub for recent college grads looking to get into the insurance and financial services sector. Some major companies with a significant presence in Des Moines include Wells Fargo and UPS. According to Zillow, the typical rent is $1,202, while the average salary for recent college grads is $59,697. The rent-to-income ratio in Des Moines is 24%, which is less than a quarter of the average salary for 2023 college graduates, $59,600, according to The National Center for Education Statistics. “With strong job growth and affordable rents, Des Moines becomes an attractive city for recent grads to build their careers and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle,” Emily McDonald, Zillow rental trends expert, tells CNBC Make It.

Council clears the way for modern logistics center on Grant Line Road

Plans for a large industrial building on 86 acres along the south side of Grant Line Road were cleared by the Tracy City Council on Tuesday. The project applicant was Prologis, developer of much of the land in the 870-acre Northeast Industrial Area as well as the International Park of Commerce on the west side of town. No mention was made during the council’s discussion of the potential user of the building, which is referred to as “Project Big Bird.”

In order to clear the project for development the Tracy City Council needed to approve an amendment to the Northeast Industrial Area Specific Plan, allowing buildings in the area to be as high as 125 feet, more than twice the height now allowed under that plan, provided the building is at least 250 feet from any property line. The council approved that amendment on a unanimous vote. The council also unanimously approved the development review for the building, which will be between Skylark Way and Chrisman Road, with the developer building a realigned Paradise Road at the south side of the project.

The footprint of 823,522 square feet includes 55,808 square feet of office space on the north side of the building and 767,714 square feet of warehouse space on the ground floor. Four levels of 133,024-square-foot robotics-occupied sorting floors above the ground floor bring it to a height of 99 feet with 1,355,618 square feet of space. In addition, each of the upper floors has 532,466 square feet of robotic storage platforms, accounting for another 2.1 million square feet of storage space. The project also includes a parking lot for more than 1,800 cars and more than 230 trailers between the building and Grant Line Road. All 40 loading dock bays would be on the south side of the building.

Representatives of Prologis’ San Francisco office would not identify the potential user, citing client confidentiality. Plans included with the city staff report include a drawing that depicts signage for Amazon, and another shows an Amazon logo on the side of the building. A representative of Amazon would not confirm if Amazon is the user, noting that the company does not comment on its future plans. Amazon has three major centers in town, including its OAK4 fulfillment center, opened in 2013, just south of the new building. Two more, including one that opened this week, are located in the Prologis International Park of Commerce on the west side of town. Ali Harandi, investment officer with Prologis, described Project Big Bird to the city council, without naming the user, as the type of facility that defines modern logistics. “The building is impressive. It represents the future of logistics in fulfillment real estate,” Harandi told the council. “Upon completion in 2022 the building is going to be the flagship of our client’s portfolio. It will retain over 700 city of Tracy jobs, good-paying jobs, while adding an additional 300 manufacturing jobs for the neighboring facility that they occupy. These are higher-paying managerial logistics jobs with heavy engineering and robotics inside of the building. “Also, it will probably generate hundreds of construction jobs, and these aren’t really short-term construction jobs. Based on the sophistication of this build this is going to be a 14- to 18-month construction duration.”

During the public comment part of the hearing several representatives of labor groups endorsed the project and recommended approval, citing the local jobs that such a large construction project would bring to Tracy and San Joaquin County. The council’s discussion about the project focused in part on what the new height limit would mean for the city, with fire protection a primary concern. South San Joaquin County Fire Authority Chief Randall Bradley told the council that after meeting with city staff and representatives of Prologis he is supportive of the project. The challenge for the fire department is that at 99 feet, Project Big Bird is about 40 to 50 feet taller than neighboring buildings, such as Crate and Barrel and Amazon’s OAK4. “While we’re supportive of the project, I do want to go on record as saying that this building is a very tall building, and once you exceed 75 feet it really changes from a suburban fire protection model to an urban fire protection model,” Bradley said.

Council members also cited the local jobs in voicing their support. “I think this is an incredible project,” said Councilman Dan Arriola. “As a council we so often depend on our economic development team to bring in new jobs into the city. This is one of those few opportunities we have as a council to enact policy which itself creates jobs which are those middle class prevailing-wage jobs, and really enhances and builds up that middle class.” The only issue where the council had a split vote was on a resolution that identified a $4 million community benefit that Prologis would provide. The language of the resolution cited a multi-purpose gymnasium “or similar recreational amenity,” but council members Rhodesia Ransom and Nancy Young dissented, stating that they expected a commitment to having the gymnasium as that benefit.

How one Central Valley city became Northern California’s logistics hub

Amazon. Safeway. Costco. FedEx. Ford. The Home Depot. These are just a few of the names that have established major distribution centers in San Joaquin County over the past 30 years.

Federal job statistics confirm that San Joaquin County is a leading center for warehousing, logistics and distribution in the Western United States. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Stockton-Lodi metropolitan area has the second-highest concentration of transportation and logistics jobs in the country — bested only by Laredo, Texas.

So what’s attracting all of these transportation, distribution and logistics operations to the region? A 2019 study from University of the Pacific’s Center for Business and Policy Research attributes the growth of San Joaquin County’s goods movement system to four primary causes: the rise of e-commerce, the coalescence of a Northern California mega-region, the county’s connectedness through its transportation infrastructure and its strategic location, and a workforce ideally suited for transportation and logistics jobs.

Strategic location

San Joaquin County is strategically located at the heart of what economists are calling the Northern California mega-region. It’s a concept that was first coined by the Bay Area Council in 2016. Encapsulating 21 counties in Northern California, the zone is home to more than 12 million people, representing nearly a third of California’s total population. The counties are connected by commute patterns, movement of goods, housing markets, and mutually complementary economies that help meet the needs of businesses throughout the region.

Stockton, San Joaquin County’s largest city (2018 population: 311,178) and primary economic center, is located less than 100 miles from San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Sacramento — places where the cost of land makes it prohibitively expensive to house expansive, large-footprint structures like warehouses and fulfillment centers. The combination of Stockton’s lower density and its proximity to large population centers in the Bay Area and Sacramento are what make it attractive to logistics and fulfillment operations in the region.

The exodus by these warehouses and distribution centers out of the core Bay Area began back in the mid-1990s, which was around the same time property values in San Francisco and nearby counties began to rise precipitously, according to the Center for Business and Policy Research. That trend has only accelerated since then. The center’s report finds that concentration of transportation and warehousing jobs has grown nearly three-fold since 1993.

A connected city

Whether it’s by air, land or sea, goods pass through Stockton around-the-clock.

Located at the nexus of two out of three major north-south freeways in California — I-5 and SR-99 — Stockton is connected by a robust ground transportation system to the major population centers in the Central Valley, Southern California and, via I-580, the San Francisco Bay Area. Moreover, its location along I-5, the major north-south freeway in the Western United States, provides connection to cities across the continental U.S.

The Port of Stockton, utilizing the San Joaquin River deep water channel, carries tons of cargo each year between the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay. Stockton Metropolitan Airport allows cargo carriers — including Amazon Air — to dispatch their goods to customers across the country.

All that is bolstered by top-tier rail service: The City of Stockton is served by two national Class I railway lines, and is home to two major intermodal rail-freight terminals, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific.

A motivated workforce

Known as a “city of makers,” Stockton is a top regional destination for artists, chefs, entrepreneurs, craftspersons and others working in the trades. San Joaquin Delta College, recently ranked the No. 4 best community college in the nation when measured along vectors related cost and quality, offers dozens of career and technical education (CTE) programs for career-minded individuals who know what industry they want to work in. Delta College also offers a CTE transition program for high school students grades nine through 12, offering a direct career pathway for jobs that are predicted to be in high demand, bypassing alternative paths that funnel students towards the increasingly saturated tech industry job market.

The culmination of these programs, together with Stockton’s relatively young population (the median age in Stockton is 32.8, compared to a national average of 38.2), creates a motivated, practical-minded, career-ready workforce ideal for filling blue-collar posts like those in the transportation and logistics industries. Additionally, with Stockton’s relatively low cost of living compared to coastal population centers in California, businesses will find a hardworking, relatively low-cost workforce in the Bay Area’s backyard.

Port of Stockton operations not crimped by COVID-19 pandemic

California’s largest inland seaport, the Port of Stockton, is open and operating normally, officials say, although some measures are in place to prevent the spread of the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness. “The Port of Stockton’s priority is to ensure the health and safety of all Port stakeholders; to date, the Port of Stockton’s ability to support our business partners has not been impacted by COVID-19,” says Port Director Richard Aschieris.

Madera County named one of the fastest growing communities in the West

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic analysis showed Madera County saw the fastest growth in the West in a medium-sized community with a 6.6% increase for its gross domestic product, which is the value of goods and services produced within the county. The study highlighted growth areas in agriculture and forestry, especially in the mountains where trees have died.

South Valley Industrial Summit

Join us Wednesday, November 14th for the
optional pre-summit workshops offered free of
charge to industry partners. Come and learn about
new technologies and processes.
Thursday, November 15th is designed to be a
full-day event that will feature vendor booths,
keynote speakers, and various breakout sessions
offered by industry experts and practitioners.
Keynote Speakers
 President & CEO, California Dairies
 Faraday Future
 Surf Ranch, Kelly Slater Wave Company
NEW! Optional Pre-Summit Workshops
Nov. 14
 Lean Principles
 ABB Inc in Robotics
 Variable Frequency Drive Basics & Control Methods
 Intro to Machine Vision
 Safety Solutions: Introduction to Automation Safety

Kern County Economic Summit

The Kern County Economic Summit is an annual program featuring economists and business leaders who provide valuable information designed to educate and broaden perspectives on international, national, and regional economies.

Don’t miss this premier opportunity to join local businesses and government leaders in discovering ways to sustain and advance economic prosperity in our growing region, and what it means for our future.