Email FacebookTwitterMenu burgerClose thin

Cities With the Youngest Workforces – 2021 Edition


While Baby Boomers and Generation X are now the bosses at many companies, more than 25% of the workforce is younger than 30. This means that Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) and millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are emerging as the generations to soon comprise the largest percentage of workers.

Starting your career at a young age provides more time to build up your savings and create a retirement plan with a financial advisor. Some cities offer younger workers more opportunities for gainful employment and SmartAsset crunched the numbers to find out where younger employees make up the biggest percentage of the local workforce.

To do this, we studied data on the 100 largest cities in the U.S., analyzing the number of workers younger than the age of 30 as a percentage of total workers. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s second annual study on the cities with the youngest workforces. You can read our 2020 edition here.

Key Findings

  • Cities with youngest workforces dominate in education, healthcare and social assistance. More than 27% of workers in our top 10 cities have jobs in educational services, healthcare and social assistance. This means that across the top 10, these industries attract or have opportunities for almost six times more workers than construction, almost four times more than manufacturing, almost three times more than retail and almost four times more than finance and real estate. One notable exception is Norfolk, Virginia: The world’s biggest naval base employs almost 21% of the city’s workforce in the armed forces (compared to less than 19% in education, healthcare and social assistance).
  • Midsize cities attract the youngest workforces. Midsize cities beat out the biggest cities in the top 10 of this study. Even with an average 29-and-younger workforce of about 73,000 (compared to 368,000 across the largest 10 cities in the study), the cities in the top 10 have workforces comprised of about 36% younger workers. This average is only 28% across the largest 10 cities.

1. Norfolk, VA

With a workforce of almost 42% that is younger than 30, Norfolk, Virginia ranks at the top of our list. This city also has the fifth-highest workforce participation rate for younger workers in our study, at 80.4%. One of the major drivers behind the city’s employment of people in this age group is the naval base, which is the largest in the world. Our study reveals that almost 21% of all Norfolk workers are employed by the armed forces.

2. Madison, WI

Home to the University of Wisconsin, Madison has 38.93% of its workforce made up of people ages 16 to 29. The labor force participation rate for this age group is 74.8%, 25th-highest in our study. Education, healthcare and social assistance industries are the biggest employers in Madison, comprising 32.57% of the total workforce.

3. Lubbock, TX

Lubbock, Texas is yet another college town, the home of Texas Tech. People ages 16 to 29 make up 37.79% of the workforce in this city. But the workforce participation rate for this cohort is only 66.3%, ranking 80th out of 100 in our study. The relatively low figure for this metric could be impacted by the large university population, which, although eligible for the workforce, is largely unemployed during its student tenure.

4. Lincoln, NE

Lincoln is the home of the University of Nebraska. This city has a total of 166,354 workers, and 59,184 are younger than 30 – making up 35.58% of the workforce. Education, healthcare and social assistance are the biggest industries in the city, employing just over 27% of all workers. Retail is also a major industry in the city, hiring 10.85% of the workforce.

5. Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania used to be dominated by steel production. But now, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is the major employer. In fact, education, healthcare and social assistance jobs make up 32.03% of the city’s workforce. And workers ages 16 to 29 make up 35.25% of the total workforce.

6. Tucson, AZ

Tucson, Arizona has 98,591 workers younger than 30, with a workforce participation rate of 69.2% for that age group. People ages 16 to 29 represent 35.22% of total workers in this city.

7. Boston, MA

Boston, Massachusetts has the biggest workforce in the top 10 of this study, with 426,238 workers. And 149,695 of that force is younger than 30, meaning that 35.12% of the total workforce in Beantown is 16 to 29. Boston is another city where education, healthcare and assistance services dominate, employing 31.17% of the workforce.

8. Cincinnati, OH

Younger workers make up almost 35% of the total workforce in Cincinnati, Ohio. The number of workers ages 16 to 29 is 57,014, and their labor force participation rate is just over 70%. Education, healthcare and social assistance are the biggest industries, employing just over 27%. But manufacturing remains important in Cincinnati, accounting for 10.62% of the workforce.

9. Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis has the seventh-highest labor force participation rate for workers younger than 30 in our study – almost 80%. Overall, younger people (ages 16 to 29) make up 34.87% of the workforce in the city. Almost 27% of those employed in Minneapolis work in education, healthcare and social assistance, with retail comprising more than 10%.

10. Richmond, VA

Richmond, Virginia claims the 10th spot on our list, with a labor force participation rate of just over 78% for people ages 16 to 29. This age group makes up more than 34% of the city’s total workforce. More than 24% of the city’s total workforce is employed by education, healthcare and social assistance.

Data and Methodology

To find the cities with the youngest workforces, we examined data on the 100 largest U.S. cities. Using population data and labor force participation rates from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey, we found the percentage of the workforce younger than the age of 30 (i.e. between 16 and 29 years old) in each city. Cities with the highest percentages of younger workers ranked at the top of the list, and those with the lowest percentages of younger workers ranked at the bottom of the list.

Tips for Managing Your Money at the Start of Your Career

  • It’s never too early to invest in expert advice. Even if you’re younger, it may make sense to find a financial advisor help with your money. Finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with advisors, get started now.
  • The key to retirement savings is to start as soon as possible. If you have access to a workplace retirement savings program like a 401(k), make sure you take advantage of it.
  • Double-check your paycheck. Knowing how much money you make after taxes is key to financial planning. Use SmartAsset’s free paycheck calculator to see what you’ll actually see on your check after everything is taken out.

Questions about our study? Contact

Photo Credit: © iStock/fizkes