10 U.S. Cities Where Employees Are Happiest—and Most Miserable

January 17, 2019, 6:27 PM UTC

What makes people love their jobs? It’s an increasingly urgent question in this job market, where your best talent may be besieged with rival offers. Sure, money matters but, in the cities where employees report the highest levels of job satisfaction, a few intangibles count, too. Among those are challenging work, freedom to work independently (micromanagers, take note), and leaders who encourage ideas from team members and lend support to their long-term career goals.

That’s what job site kununu concluded from a deep dive into its database of more than 87,000 employee reviews. Zeroing in on the 50 biggest metropolitan areas in the U.S., the researchers found that employers in these 10 cities earned the highest scores:

  1. Miami, Fla.
  2. Los Angeles, Calif.
  3. Raleigh, N.C.
  4. Louisville, Ky.
  5. Omaha, Neb.
  6. San Jose, Calif.
  7. Sacramento, Calif.
  8. Oklahoma City, Okla.
  9. Seattle, Wash.
  10. Fresno, Calif.


It’s worth noting that the top two towns got high marks, in part, for the overall quality of life outside of work, including things employers elsewhere can’t easily replicate, like great local beaches and plenty of sunshine. Nor do companies usually have much, if any, control over the cost of living. But job satisfaction in most of the Top Ten (Raleigh and Omaha, for instance) seems linked to some degree with the ready availability of affordable housing, which takes a load of financial pressure off the folks who live and work there. The stratospheric cost of living is one reason New York City came in dead last on kununu’s list of 50.

Even so, Johannes Prüller, a kununu director, believes those factors are far less essential to employee happiness than working for the right boss. “We all know that people join organizations but quit their managers,” he says. So leaders who hope their best and brightest will stick around need to “create a supportive environment where people can thrive.” The 10 lowest-ranked cities among kununu’s list of 50 “all lack decent employee ratings in a category we call ‘leadership support’.”

That means finding the time to coach subordinates, discussing their performance goals and giving specific, useful feedback in real time, all of which Prüller says “affects how employees view their opportunities for advancement.”

With that in mind, here are the 10 cities with the lowest scores:

41. Charlotte, N.C.

42. Albuquerque, N.M.

43. Milwaukee, Wis.

44. Colorado Springs, Co.

45. El Paso, Tex.

46. Dallas, Tex.

47. Houston, Tex.

48. Memphis, Tn.

49. Oakland, Calif.

50. New York, N.Y.

One encouraging note: kununu found that U.S. employees overall apparently feel somewhat better about their jobs than they did a year ago. Partly because of a more widespread emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, people in late 2018 reported “average happiness scores” that beat 2017’s numbers by 12.3%.

Anne Fisher is a career expert and advice columnist who writes “Work It Out,” Fortune’s guide to working and living in the 21st century. Each week, she’ll answer your most challenging career questions. Have one? Ask her on Twitter or email her at workitout@fortune.com.