Perennial contender Austin has topped the sixth annual STEM Internship Growth Index (STEMdex), a ranking published by RCLCO, with the support of CapRidge Partners.
The Texas capital has historically been a tight labor market and currently has unemployment of just 2.8 percent. “If you want a job in Austin, you can find one,” is how the report puts it.
The city ranks high nationally for MSA GDP growth, with its economy growing 4.3 percent in the last 12 months. Further, Silicon Valley powerhouses like Alphabet, Amazon and Tesla have relocated thousands of jobs to metro Austin, with office and manufacturing footprints to match.
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And despite a rising cost of living driven in part by home appreciation and increasing multifamily rents, RCLCO notes that Austin “remains one of the most popular destinations for recent college graduates and the city’s numerous food and entertainment festivals keep the city attractive for all ages.”
The rest of the top five STEMdex cities are:
2) Washington, D.C., which is seeing strong in-migration, high average wages and very high educational attainment, while also boasting exceptional walk/bike/transit scores.
3) Raleigh, N.C., is buoyed by noteworthy workforce quality and quality of life, plus an above-average business climate.
4) Denver topped the list last year but slid down a bit only because other markets have improved so much. Its workforce quality and business climate are somewhat mitigated by a relatively high cost of living.
5) Seattle is an ongoing STEMdex mainstay currently burdened by high office costs, though that doesn’t seem to deter a steady flow of tech startups.
The STEMdex takes into account socioeconomic, business, and fiscal metrics—23 in all—to evaluate the employment prospects of the various cities. These factors encompass population growth, industry-specific growth, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics related) wages, educational attainment, cost of living and other elements.
Remote work and a tale of Tulsa
Stepping back for a more strategic take on STEM careers in the COVID era, RCLCO points out that the opportunity to work remotely has driven some out-migration from higher cost-of-living coastal cities to lower-cost areas.
The report cites Tulsa, Okla., as one of several cities that have sought to capitalize on remote work as a way to boost their economies. The city offered remote workers a $10,000 grant to relocate for a full year to Tulsa, an initiative that brought in almost 600 workers. The program reportedly generated an estimated $13.77 in new local economic activity for every dollar the city spent on the grant program.
Despite all this, RCLCO cautions that “the biggest STEM gains are still in markets with a strong base of tech employment and existing infrastructure.”