As a rule, Americans are a pretty hard-working bunch. After all, we’ve mythologized “the American Dream” as the reward for a lifetime of working hard and achieving a form of nirvana. We have a 34.4-hour work week, on average (in your face, Germany!), and are often terrible about taking our vacation days. Whether it’s working extra hours to make ends meet or to stay ahead of the workload, we put in our time. So what are the hardest-working hotspots in the U.S.? It’s a big country, and not every city is the same when it comes to working culture and time spent at work.
This year, WalletHub has taken a close look at the work habits in 116 U.S. cities, and ranked them based on a number of factors like labor force participation rate, average work hours, and the number of workers with multiple jobs. Based on their findings, you may want to consider picking up stakes and moving to one of these metropolises for your own career. Let’s look at some of their hardest working cities, and the hottest industries in these moving-and-shaking cities.
If you’re a mainlander, Alaska might not even be on your radar for potential job opportunities and a strong working culture. With 42% of Alaska’s population and 47% of the state’s jobs, Anchorage is a bustling city with a strong presence in job sectors like the military (there are three bases located near the city), transportation, oil and natural gas, and tourism.
Spotlight Industry: Logistics
Anchorage has become a major transportation hub, particularly in the shipping industry. FedEx in particular has set up shop in Anchorage, and considers it a major touchpoint for its global shipping program. The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport accounts for 10% of Anchorage’s jobs, and sees more than 500 intercontinental cargo flights every week. Additionally, the port at Anchorage is responsible for more than 90% of the consumer goods that go in and out of Alaska. If you’re looking for opportunities in the logistics field, think north!
Plano, TX and Irving, TX
Far from the rugged Texas ranch image, Plano and Irving are thoroughly modern cities perhaps best known as a headquarters hub: companies like Frito-Lay, J.C. Penney, Pizza Hut, Capital One, Toyota North America, and Cinemark Theaters all call Plano or Irving home.
Spotlight Industry: IT/Technology
Among its many corporate headquarters, Plano counts many of the major tech and telecommunications companies:
- Hewlitt-Packard Enterprise Services
- Infosys Technologies
- Siemens PLM Software
- Gearbox Software
- CA Technologies
- Aegis Communications
Even if you don’t have a background in IT, these corporate headquarters also offer opportunities for people in different areas, like office administration, human resources, communications, etc.
As the capital and most populous city in Wyoming, Cheyenne is one of the smaller cities on the list, at just under 60,000 people per the 2010 census. But what it lacks in population, it makes up for in opportunity. This city has a low overall unemployment rate, and is diversifying beyond the agriculture and mining that have always been part of Wyoming’s fabric. As it grows and changes, the city has also been rated the “tax-friendliest U.S. city” by Kiplinger’s.
Spotlight Industry: Manufacturing
While manufacturing jobs are on the decline in many parts of the country, it continues to grow in Cheyenne. Fertilizer manufacturing, electronics, precision instruments, and restaurant equipment are among the plants that have established roots in the capital city, and the trend continues as companies look for new cities to concentrate their stateside manufacturing programs.
Virginia Beach, VA
While the “beach” part of the name accurately describes the coastal benefits of Virginia Beach, this city is hardly a sleepy beachside hamlet. Virginia Beach is the most populous city in the commonwealth of Virginia, and the 41st most populous city in the country. Tourism is indeed a major factor in the local economy, but it is also a major port for the U.S. military, as well as a hub for agribusiness. Virginia Beach was rated in the top 50 in a recent Forbes survey of the best places for business and careers.
Spotlight Industry: U.S. Military
Virginia Beach is home to three major military bases, with a fourth just outside city limits: the U.S. Navy's NAS Oceana, the Training Support Center Hampton Roads, the Joint Expeditionary Base East located at Cape Henry, and the Joint Expeditionary Base–Little Creek. If you’re not interested in enlisting in the Navy, no worries—these bases employ thousands of civilian employees in support roles as well.
Once described by the New York Times as “a desert version of Miami’s South Beach,” Scottsdale is a vibrant Western city that has become a major destination for travelers looking for year-round sun and dry warmth.
Spotlight Industry: Tourism
In Scottsdale, tourism accounts for 39% of the city’s jobs, with about 7.5 million people visiting the city every year and bringing many millions in revenue. Scottsdale features more than 70 resorts and hotels, with 15,000 rooms. Career opportunities also flourish at other tourism-related businesses like spas, golf courses, retail stores, and restaurants.
San Francisco, CA
Right next door to Silicon Valley, San Francisco is considered the commercial and cultural center of northern California. The city scored high on WalletHub’s “direct work factors” section, meaning that work week hours and labor-force participation were both high. The long work weeks are likely driven by the innovative startup culture that has emerged in San Francisco, which often values hustle over traditional professional structures.
Spotlight industry: Tech
It’s virtually impossible to talk about San Francisco these days without talking about its evolving tech industry, which has helped change the professional profile of the city. San Francisco is a highly diverse city, an American leader in many industries (including service/tourism, financial services, and higher education). But in recent years, the trend has moved into the tech sector, with biotech and high tech companies like Apple, Google moving in nearby.
Corpus Christi, TX
Another Texas entry on the list (there seems to be a definite theme here!), Corpus Christi is located in the Gulf region of Texas, bringing a different culture and commercial profile to the list than Irving and Plano. As the deepest inshore port on the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi has thriving oil/petrochemical and transportation industries, in addition to being a tourist destination.
Spotlight Industry: Petrochemical Manufacturing and Transport
Corpus Christi is in the midst of a “petrochemical boom,” meaning the city has become a major supplier for products created by refining petroleum and natural gas. The city’s oil refineries and petrochemical plants are at the forefront of providing chemical products to China and other developed countries around the world, with billions of dollars in development projects coming to the region by 2023.
Jokes about Congress aside, Washington, D.C. received high-marks in WalletHub’s survey of the hardest-working cities. As the U.S. capital, it’s tops in the presidential monument game, but also a large, diverse city that serves as a hub for a number of industries, in the public, private, and international sectors.
Spotlight Industry: Civil Service
In Washington, DC the federal government is the largest employer, accounting for 29% of the city’s jobs as of 2012. Much of this is based on the sheer number of federal agencies that call the city home, but is also due to the fact that federal government jobs are often insulated from economic downturns that sometimes hit other cities (the government needs to keep running, regardless of external factors). The federal agencies also employ thousands of contractors, subsidiary businesses, and support businesses to keep things running smoothly. (Again, jokes about Congress aside.)
Sioux Falls, SD
Sioux Falls is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States (47th), and is definitively the fastest-growing city in South Dakota. Historically, mining and agriculture made up the backbone of the city’s economy, but in the 20th and 21st centuries, the city’s economic interests have diversified thanks to the state’s lack of corporate income tax.
Spotlight Industry: Financial Services
When you think of financial services, you might think of generic skyscraper buildings in large cities, processing data and crunching numbers. The reality is that many financial services companies seek out less crowded cities like Sioux Falls, which are off the beaten path. The city’s largest employers are major financial players Wells Fargo and Citigroup, making Sioux Falls a major destination for workers with backgrounds in accounting, actuarial science, or finance, as well as people looking for administrative work in a growing metropolitan area.
While hard workers are (of course) found in every town and city in the country, this survey offers some valuable insight into which cities and regions are leading the way as we look for growth and innovation in the world’s largest economy. Where will you be looking for your next hard-working opportunity?
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