Countless headlines and reports have bemoaned Millennials’ failure to launch. But it’s important to note that even though more 20- and 30-somethings are struggling, it’s not like the generation is at a complete standstill. Though they aren’t free from debt by any means, Millennials who managed to find jobs don’t have the financial baggage of their parents (like a mortgage), and they’re likely to switch companies every three years or less, which means a lot of moving.
So where are they going? Demographer William H. Frey from the Brookings Institute ran the net migration numbers, and revealed that the top cities Millennials are moving to shared certain qualities: plentiful jobs in knowledge-based sectors, a focus on tech, and a certain cool factor.
1. Washington, D.C.
Jumping from #33 to #1 on the list, Washington D.C. and its surrounding suburbs may have gotten a post-recession boost from Obama’s popularity among the 20-something set … though plentiful job opportunities didn’t hurt either.
The D.C. metro area boasts a low unemployment level of 5.4%, compared to the national average of 7.3%. Goes to show that despite D.C.’s high rent prices and the fact that the area’s traffic is consistently ranked as the worst in the country, young people are drawn to knowledge-based jobs in government and large corporations headquartered in the area, like Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH), Northrup Grumman (NOC) and MedStar Health.
2. Denver, CO
Denver remains a popular choice for young job seekers — both before and after the recession, it had net migrations of about 11,000 young workers.
Denver’s central location in the country makes it an attractive distribution hub, which brings jobs in the city’s main industries: aerospace, telecommunications and tech. At 6.5%, unemployment is slightly below the national average, and the city is sixth on Forbes’ “Best Places for Business and Careers” list.
3. Portland, OR
Portland lives up to its Portlandia billing as “the city where young people go to retire,” with organic cuisine, food carts and independent coffee chains galore … and, until recently, a lot of unemployment and underemployment after the city was hit hard by the recession.
But things are looking up for the hipster paradise. According to Frey’s research, the city’s net gains of young workers are up 12% since the recession, and unemployment is on par with the national average.
4. Houston, TX
Houston is another city that’s always been popular for young job seekers, with an unchanged migration ranking before and after the recession.
The business-friendly policies (low taxes and few licensing regulations) in Texas bring lots of jobs to the area, and although it’s the fourth most populous city in the United States, real estate is reasonable. Forbes ranked it the sixth-best city to rent in the country, with average monthly rent at $789.
5. Austin, TX
Austin’s reputation as a hip, affordable city with a college atmosphere has always attracted young job seekers—in fact, before the recession, Austin was the top city young people were moving to. Now D.C. has knocked it off the number-one spot, but that doesn’t make Austin unattractive.
CNN Money recently called it the top city for entrepreneurs, unsurprising with the state’s business-friendly policies and young population. Austin is also the home of the annual South by Southwest festival, which is perhaps best known for its music, but also attracts creative minds from all kinds of businesses to meet and share ideas.
Carla Lake is an assistant managing editor at InvestorPlace living in the D.C. metro area who now feels justified in her decision not to move far from home after college. As of this writing, she did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.