If you want to work in government, you need to be strategic about where to go to find employment. Right now, local governments are a smart place to look for a new job or to kick off a career in public service.
The best cities for a government job are not just about available employment opportunities. They strike a balance between being great places to both live and work. Look for a reasonable cost of living, a stable or even growing local economy, and a vibrant culture. The best cities will also host a concentration of jobs in local or regional government, or be home to at least a few federal government offices.
Public sector jobs have not increased as quickly as private sector ones—growing 0.5% in 2015 compared to the private sector’s 2.2% growth rate. But, the good news is that city and county governments jobs have increased for eleven consecutive months in 2015. And, so far in 2016, new hires in the public sector have mostly been made by local governments.
Here are the top five cities to work in government at this moment in 2016:
5. Boulder, Colorado
A booming local economy often means an increase in the local government’s budget. Boulder, Colorado follows that trend, with a projected increase in spending and jobs for 2016. The positive situation in Boulder is bolstered by Colorado’s economy, which is improving faster than the national average. That means if chilled out Boulder is not your speed, nearby Denver has an expanding government job market as well.
Boulder is also a beautiful, exciting place to live. It’s considered one of the most livable cities in the U.S. for its abundant green spaces, high quality public education, and even its craft brewing scene. If you love outdoor activities, you’ll find your tribe in Boulder, which often ranks at the top of the country’s healthiest cities.
Given all that Boulder has working in its favor, you might expect it to be higher on the list of top cities to work in government. However, the area has been hit by rapidly increasing housing costs as demand has outstripped supply.
4. Austin, Texas
Government jobs are a big part of Austin, Texas, home to the state government and the University of Texas, one of the largest employers in central Texas. Many government employees in Austin will receive an expected 3% pay increase under the 2015-2016 budget, a sweet incentive to work in the public sector.
Austin and its suburbs also have had larger overall employment growth than most of the U.S., good news for anyone with a significant other who also needs to find work. It is listed in several top job lists from 2015, including Nerd Wallet’s Best Cities for Job Seekers, Fortune’s Best Cities to Find a Job, and CNN Money’s Top 10 Best Cities for Jobs.
The city is known around the world as the host of South by Southwest, a trend-setting music, film, and interactive festival. Residents are also known for their commitment to “Keep Austin Weird.” Head to Austin if you’re looking for a lifestyle filled with live music, thriving restaurant scene, and a Texas-sized dose of creativity.
3. Bismarck, North Dakota
Bismarck, North Dakota is a boom town. The North Dakota capital stands out is it’s incredibly low unemployment rate and high job growth rate, boons credited to the state’s oil boom and the city’s stable base of local, state, and federal government jobs. In some areas of North Dakota, there are more jobs than there are available workers. The state government is the Bismarck area’s largest employer.
Younger workers have been drawn to the area because of the availability of high-quality entry level jobs and relatively low cost of living. The population growth and younger demographic means that there’s been a local baby boom side by side with the oil boom.
Though it’s surrounded by North Dakota’s surreal landscapes, the Bismarck metro area is still considered an undiscovered place to explore and settle down. Long known as “the least stressful town in America,” Bismark is certain appeal to anyone who has worked for government.
2. Logan, Utah
Thanks to consecutive budget increases aimed at spurring the state’s economic growth, you can almost take your pick of cities on the upswing in Utah. Since the growth-mindset budget has put education as a top priority, Logan, Utah, the home of Utah State University, will certainly benefit. Logan has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and low housing costs, upping its appeal.
Logan is a city perfect for people looking for a small town atmosphere. The Logan Valley is part of by the Cache Valley, a sprawling area that attracts people who love to hike, ski, camp, snowmobile, fish, and rock climb. Residents are also proud of the area’s role in the expansion of the American West.
If you’re looking if you’re thinking of settling in Utah but want a bit more hustle and bustle, check out Provo or Salt Lake City.
1. Lincoln, Nebraska
Anyone who remembers the dot-com boom will have deja vu when visiting Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s been named one of the emerging heartland hubs for it’s booming tech sector job market. But tech isn’t the only sector doing well in Lincoln. As the state capitol, it’s a hub for local and federal government jobs.
It’s clear something is happening in Lincoln, Nebraska. Whether it’s a short-lived tech-fueled heyday or a long-lasting revitalization remains to be seen. If you’re a risk taker, Lincoln is worth a look—and is worth flying to for a few job interviews.
Feel like your city should be on this list?
Are you convinced that your hometown is one of the best cities for people who want a career in government? Tell us why your city deserves to be on this list in the comments!
Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, writer, and speaker based in San Francisco. She helps organizations engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website islaurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.