Rank CityJob growth Income growthCost of livingHousing affordability
1Seattle122149132122
2Bergen-Passaic, N.J.110102141131
3Miami79132127137
4Portland, Ore.118133114105
5Middlesex, N.J.85131138116
6San Jose, Calif.15028149142
7San Francisco14527150146
8Chicago11998123120
9New York10363146143
10Jersey City, N.J.98101119135
Source: Economy.com; Sperling's Best Places

The details
1. Seattle. The Seattle metro area is home to some of the largest American corporations (such as Boeing and Microsoft), but that doesn't mean that the cost of living and housing are proportionate to the job and income growth in the area. The Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County argues that there's a reason for the high housing costs -- mainly because roughly 25% of local residents are in either professional or managerial positions.

2. Bergen-Passaic, N.J. To be fair, few people move to the Bergen-Passaic area in hopes of finding a job in town. The area is full of professionals who commute to and from New York. Still, local residents are almost paying big city prices to live outside the big city. In terms of job growth, the area ranked 110 out of 150, and income growth was 102 out of 150 places ranked.

3. Miami. Florida may have led the nation in adding new jobs last year, but Miami-Dade County's unemployment is still higher than the national average (above 7%). In a Miami Herald report, Gov. Jeb Bush said Miami's lagging unemployment rate was due to the fact that Miami was "unique" because of its high costs. He got that right. The city ranked 137 out of 150 places for housing affordability and 127 out of 150 for cost of living. Living in the sand and sun isn't cheap, apparently.

4. Portland, Ore. "We need to improve the business climate of the Portland area, because we are racked with some of the highest unemployment rates and the lowest job-creation rates in the country. Those are unacceptable." Those were the words of Jonathan Schlueter in an Oregonian interview after he was named the executive director of the non-profit Westside Economic Alliance in Portland. During the tech boom, Oregon became a desirable destination for professionals hoping to find an affordable alternative to the Bay Area, but it ended up driving up the cost of living, and the job market hasn't quite caught up.

5. Middlesex, N.J. Some of the largest employers in Middlesex include large companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merrill Lynch, and the area's unemployment rate has been below the national average (last year it was 5.4% while the national unemployment rate was 6%), but it's not clear how many people are employed locally since Middlesex County, roughly 40 miles away from New York City, is also a major bedroom community for New York professionals.

6. San Jose. San Jose, the largest city in the Bay Area, wasn't really considered a desirable place to live prior to the tech boom. During the late 1990s, however, as housing prices rocketed along with the stock market, it became just as expensive as its northern neighbor, San Francisco. Now the city is left with a 6.8% unemployment rate hangover, and housing costs are still among the highest in the country.

7. San Francisco. The median home price in San Francisco is $597,300, and the city ranked 145 out of 150 for job growth, making it a difficult place for Americans who haven't already made their millions in the technology industry to settle down and raise a family, or find a new job. Still, for anyone pursuing a career in the technology industry, the Bay Area is the best option.

8. Chicago. While the Chicago economy is showing modest improvements -- the unemployment rate declined by 0.9% according to the most recent statistics released by the Illinois Department of Employment Security -- its job growth ranking leaves much room for improvement, and its 6.2% unemployment rate is still above the national average (currently at 5.5%). Still, the $228,100 median home price is significantly less expensive than places like San Francisco, where the median is above $500,000.

9. New York. New York expensive? Fuggedaboudit! As of June 2004, the unemployment rate in New York City was a steep 7.4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, New York still remains one of the most expensive cities in terms of the cost of living and housing affordability. But as they say, if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere.

10. Jersey City, N.J. Although Jersey City is showing some economic promise, the cost of living is still high in relation to the local job growth. The city is trying to sell itself as its own economic hub, and even managed to persuade Wall Street financial firm Goldman Sachs to move into a new office tower on the waterfront, which is estimated to have added 1,100 jobs to Jersey City's local economy. Still, the city has a bit more growing to do before its job market catches up to the local cost of living.

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