USAA and Military.com commissioned Sperling's BestPlaces to create this ranking to help veterans as they transition from the armed forces to civilian life.
The rankings highlight the best places in the nation for military-skill-related jobs, affordability and overall quality of life.
This content is provided courtesy of USAA.
Pittsburgh earned the top spot in this year's ranking by being an affordable metropolitan area with solid job prospects for former military members. The metro area recorded some of the highest scores for government-related employment and job opportunities that align with military skill sets. Recent job growth was 2.1 percent in the last year, and the unemployment rate is well below the national average. In addition, Pittsburgh has the infrastructure of a mature city with excellent health facilities, diverse neighborhoods and abundant recreational amenities. Unlike many parts of the country that have been hit hard by the recent economic downturn, Pittsburgh has weathered the storm relatively well and is well positioned for future growth.
The Phoenix metro area is recovering from the recent housing downturn, though an upside to the recent housing reset is that there are still home-buying bargains to be found. Most appealing for the recently separated veterans are the job opportunities. With an unemployment rate well below the national average, Phoenix scores very high in all of the study's job categories -- government, defense contractors, managerial and other occupations related to military skill sets. As one of the largest metro areas in the country, Phoenix has an abundance of resources for its residents, including professional sports, mass transit and a major airport.
The Dallas metro area earns its No. 3 position with high marks in job opportunities that use military skill sets. In addition, Dallas area housing prices have remained stable throughout the recent housing downturn and are still affordable at a $130,000 median cost. As the seventh-largest metro area in the U.S., the "Big D" has plenty of resources for its residents including major health care facilities, an airport hub, plus recreational amenities. The Dallas economy is healthy, with a low unemployment rate and job growth of 2.2 percent over the last year.
The Cleveland metro area made a strong showing for managerial and supervisory jobs, government-related jobs, and those occupations that make particular use of skills acquired in the military. Defense contracting, however, is not quite as prevalent as in some of our other top-10 metros. The area's median home price is only $109,800, contributing to a cost of living well below the national average. The unemployment rate is well below the national average, and jobs have increased 1.6 percent over the last year. Though not one of the larger metros, the Cleveland area features strong recreational assets and excellent health resources for a city of its size.
Atlanta makes a strong showing on the list with the highest combined score among our top 10 places for jobs related to military skill sets. As the fifth-largest metro area in the United States, Atlanta has a diversity of resources and amenities with a median home price of $109,700, making it an affordable option for former military members and their families. While the unemployment rate is higher than in other areas on our list, job growth over the last year is strong at 2.3 percent. Atlanta also provides a strong mass transit system and a major air hub.
The Warren metro area earns the No. 6 ranking with a strong manufacturing economy rich in managerial and supervisory jobs, defense sector opportunities, and other employment positions seeking military skills. The Warren area's unemployment rate is the highest among our top 10 places, but recent job growth over the last year points to an improving local economy at 2.1 percent, which mirrors the recovering auto industry in the area. Cost of living in the Warren area is higher than other metro areas on the list with median homes at $213,000.
The Ann Arbor metro area is near the University of Michigan, one of the largest universities in the United States. This college town offers a wealth of amenities despite a smaller population, and the college provides a stable economic platform for the area. Ann Arbor also has a high concentration of government jobs, though it offers fewer jobs in the defense industry and managerial positions. This metro area boasts the lowest unemployment rate among our top 10, and the highest employment growth over the last year at 3.0 percent. These factors contribute to a strong housing market, with the median home price only slightly below the national average at $155,000.
The Cincinnati area is another metro area with top scores for all of job categories, including government, defense contracting and other military skill occupations. With an unemployment rate below the national average and employment growth of 1.8 percent over the last year, the metro area currently has solid employment prospects to offer former military members. In addition, veterans and their family members will benefit from a cost of living that is well below the national average and a median home price of $130,000. Cincinnati residents also can enjoy a range of professional sports teams and other recreational amenities.
Columbus is home to Ohio State University, but the Columbus metro area is larger than a typical college town. The area scored well in defense contracting and government jobs, as well as occupations that make use of skills honed during military service, such as medical services, logistics and protective services. However, the area has less of a manufacturing presence than other Ohio metros in our top 10. Still, the unemployment rate is low, and the area is seeing some job growth at 1.4 percent over the last year. Former military members and their families will find an affordable cost of living in the area, with a median home price of $124,000.
St. Louis is another one of our top-10 metros which received top marks for job opportunities that align with military skill sets. However, the metro area has the highest unemployment rate among the top 10 and job growth for the last year was flat at 0.1 percent. But veterans will find that St. Louis' cost of living is well below the national average, and the median home price of $121,500. And, as the 15th largest metro in the U.S., it has a bounty of recreational assets to support a high quality of life.
For more on this topic, visit the USAA website.