Young workers are flocking to these fast-growing job markets—they’re not on the coasts


New York, Washington, D.C., and other major metros may be some of the most sought-after job markets for young professionals, but for ample opportunities and high-paying roles, they may have better luck in the Sun Belt.

The metro areas around Tucson, Arizona; Tallahassee, Florida; and Gainesville, Florida; are the fastest-growing job markets for entry-level roles, according to new data from LinkedIn.

The job site ranked the top 10 rising metros for new grads based on where members listed their first jobs after graduating college in 2023 versus 2022 and identified the regions that saw the most growth.

It also analyzed which industries are on a hiring spree for new grads.

These are the 10 fastest-growing hiring markets for new college grads, plus the industries most in need of young talent:

  1. Tucson, Arizona; top industry: manufacturing 
  2. Tallahassee, Florida; top industry: government administration 
  3. Gainesville, Florida; top industry: education
  4. Chattanooga, Tennessee; top industry: manufacturing 
  5. Savannah, Georgia; top industry: manufacturing
  6. Des Moines, Iowa; top industry: professional services
  7. Birmingham, Alabama; top industry: professional services
  8. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; top industry: hospitals and healthcare 
  9. Huntsville, Alabama; top industry: manufacturing 
  10. Hartford, Connecticut; top industry: manufacturing

In today’s labor market, most job openings are concentrated in the South and Sun Belt states, so it makes sense that young professionals are flocking to those areas, says Kory Kantenga, LinkedIn’s head of Americas economist. “That’s where the action is happening now,” he says.

New grads are often attracted to take jobs in these regions to take advantage of high-paying opportunities (like in engineering and consulting) while in a low-cost-of-living area.

“You can move to somewhere like Tucson and find a great job with great pay, working in innovative sectors like manufacturing and tech, and live in an apartment without five roommates,” Kantenga says. “That’s very attractive for young professionals.”

The top industries hiring entry-level workers are secure fields like manufacturing, government, education, and health care. That may be welcome news for Class of 2024 grads who say their No. 1 priority is finding a job with stability.

The professional services sector has seen more layoffs in recent years, Kantenga says, but common jobs in consulting and legal services also pay “extremely well,” which may be a worthwhile tradeoff for young people.

The class of 2024 is facing a tougher job market than recent graduating classes. Hiring has slowed across the U.S., with the LinkedIn hiring rate down 9.6% in April compared to the same time last year. And with a new batch of college grads on the market, more people are applying for fewer jobs. Roughly 1 in 3 jobs on LinkedIn are for entry-level positions as of April, and the same share of Gen Z workers say they plan to find a new job soon.

Employers have more leverage in many hiring markets and are increasingly looking to hire for skills. Some 71% of global business leaders say they’d prefer to hire a candidate with less experience but more AI skills, rather than a more experienced candidate without AI skills, according to LinkedIn data.

Kantenga has some advice for new grads on the current market: Turn on your “open to work” badge on LinkedIn, make connections with people at your choice employers, and leverage the skills section of your profile.

“Let people know what you can do,” he says,” and not just what your pedigree is.”

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