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10 Cities With the Happiest Workers

What a survey of 500,000 people in the 50 biggest metros says

By Quentin Fottrell and MarketWatch

(This article appeared previously on

Where are the most satisfying cities to work in America? A new survey gleaned from the reviews of over 500,000 workers in the 50 largest metro areas across the U.S. claims to have the answer.

The employment situation is looking up and, according to new research from career website Glassdoor, some cities are doing better than others in terms of the happiness of workers and the prospect of being hired.

The U.S. housing market created 217,000 nonfarm jobs in May, making it the fourth consecutive month hiring has exceeded 200,000 jobs, the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data found. And with 8.7 million jobs recovered since the Great Recession, some employees have a lot to smile about.

(MORE: Is This America's Best Employer for Older Workers?)

Cities Ranked Lowest Don't Have Major Companies

But first, the bad news: The bottom five cities for employees were Phoenix, Ariz.;  Tampa, Fla.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Denver, Colo. and Pittsburgh, Pa. One theory: “Most of them don’t have a major multinational company headquartered there,” says Scott Dobroski, career trends analyst at Glassdoor.

And New York, the city that never sleeps, is also a city where people never (or rarely) stop working, he adds. The Big Apple only rated No. 28 on the list of 50 metro areas. “People complained about long hours and long commutes,” he says.

“One not surprising result is that employees are more satisfied in metro areas with very low unemployment,” says Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. “These cities have unemployment at least one percentage point below the national average.” And all of Glassdoor’s five most popular cities for employee satisfaction are also on the 10 highest ranking cities for social mobility, according to a separate survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Washington, D.C.

(MORE: Best and Worst Cities for Small Businesses)

Top Cities Attract Top Talent

The cities on Glassdoor’s list — particularly Washington, D.C., San Jose, Calif. and San Francisco, Calif. — are also among the top five cities with the highest rate of college graduates, according to the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

“The companies listed are all highly-desirable employers who would get lots of hyper-talented, highly educated people,” says Erin Cumberworth, a sociologist at Stanford University who has studied inequality across American cities. “Job growth in the U.S. is highest for the lowest-quality and the highest-quality jobs, with middle-quality jobs disappearing.”

(MORE: Best and Worst States to Retire)

But without further ado, here are the top five cities to work in based on reviews posted on Glassdoor’s site:

1. San Jose, Calif.

“San Jose is recognized as a global technology hub,” Dobroski says. Google, Stanford University and e-commerce site eBay were among the highest rated companies in that city. One employee in Mountain View, Calif. told Glassdoor: “Google has done an amazing job to create a community of ranging diversity with similar goals.” Of course, it also serves its staff gourmet food and offers free transportation. Property investors have noticed the growing wealth: San Jose is one of the top five markets for house-flipping, according to real estate data company CoreLogic.

2. San Francisco

This is another city surrounded by lots of big technology companies, including Facebook and cloud storage service Dropbox. “The work is challenging and interesting,” a Dropbox software engineer wrote in a review on Glassdoor’s online “Report Card.” He said every perk one might expect to see at a stereotypical Bay Area startup is available there, including a gym, masseuse, three five-star meals a day and a busy social calendar. One downside: Sky-high house prices. In San Francisco county, mortgage payments represent 70 percent of the median income, according to real estate data firm RealtyTrac.


3. Washington, D.C.

Employees here left reviews for Glassdoor from George Mason University, the National Institutes of Health, financial advisory firm Motley Fool and National Public Radio, among others. “Employees in D.C. highly rated the city’s government agencies and education institutions,” Dobroski says. Another curious fact about D.C.: There are almost four women for every three men, according real estate website Trulia; good for single men — if not single women.

4. Norfolk, Va.

While Norfolk, Va., might seem like an unusual city to make the top five, Glassdoor received hundreds of responses from U.S. Navy and Air Force staff. “There’s a strong military presence there,” he says. “And while many parts of the country have a military presence, they really do appear to be satisfied in their jobs.” Though many military personnel have trouble adjusting to corporate life, according to recent research from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and Pioneer Services, a division of MidCountry Bank in Bloomington, Minn., one U.S. Navy officer told Glassdoor’s survey: “Skills are easily transferred to private sector.”

5. Salt Lake City

While the University of Utah and Intermountain Healthcare were rated highly by employees here, the Glassdoor report also credited an influx of technology companies like eBay, computer software company Adobe Systems and computer hardware and software company Fusion-io. “Silicon Valley-based companies are opening up offices there and hiring very aggressively in the Salt Lake City area,” Dobroski says. “Employees have a great work-life balance there, and talk about working hard during their day and getting out of work at a reasonable hour and able to enjoy the great outdoors.”

And these are that ones that rounded out the Top 10:

6. San Diego, Calif.

7. Seattle, Wash.

8. Oklahoma City, Okla.

9. San Antonio, Texas

10. Austin, Texas

Quentin Fottrell writes for MarketWatch. You can reach him at [email protected]

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