Although the Great Recession hit South Carolina harder than most places, recent economic indicators show the state is making some headway, if slowly. While the unemployment rate hasn't budged much in the past year, millennials here are primed to find jobs.
Young adults, or millennials, in South Carolina are attracted to the laid-back Southern lifestyle, coastal towns, thriving cities and lower rents throughout the state.
Some of the most successful businesses in the Palmetto State are in sectors such as aerospace, alternative energy, automotive manufacturing, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, distribution, food processing, forestry and wood products, plastics and chemicals as well as recreation, according to the state Department of Commerce. The Charleston metropolitan area, in particular, is seeing a rise in its millennial population as the tech industry moves in.
NerdWallet crunched the numbers for 66 cities and towns in South Carolina to determine the best places for millennial job seekers.
- Are there jobs in the area? We looked at the unemployment rate in 2013 and the average worker payroll salary in 2012 using the most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures. We determined the average worker's salary with the census bureau's payroll by ZIP code. Lower unemployment rates and higher payroll salaries scored positively.
- Can you afford to rent near work? Using census data, we measured a city's median rent, including utilities, to determine if an area has reasonable rent costs. Lower costs resulted in a positive score for a city.
- Do other millennials live there? We determined that millennials are workers ages 18-33, which is the definition used in a March 2014 Pew Research Center report. We used two of the census bureau's brackets, ages 20-24 and 25-34, to create a millennial group for our analysis. From this, we found the percentage of millennials in a city's 2013 population and the growth of millennial residents from 2010 to 2013. High percentages received positive scores.
Millennials are moving to the Charleston area. Half of the places on our list are in the city or within 45 minutes of Charleston –- from the city itself to North Charleston and small suburban cities. The city's economy has been on the upswing and attracting the kind of tech startups that hire large numbers of millennials. Charleston's waterfront, historic sites, museums, cultural centers, universities, restaurants, retail and, of course, beaches are also appealing.
They are jetsetters –- or live near airports. South Carolina millennials can get away at a moment's notice thanks to their proximity to the state's airports. Five of the places on our list have airports within city limits including Aiken Municipal Airport, Berkeley County Airport, Charleston International Airport, Columbia Metropolitan Airport and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport.
Best places for millennial job seekers in South Carolina
This suburb of South Carolina's capital, Columbia, sits at the top of our list with about 29% of the city's population of 13,000 in the millennial age group. Cayce also boasts the highest salaries of any place on our list at a median nearing $50,000 a year. The city is on the Congaree River and close to the Columbia Metropolitan Airport and major roads, making it a great choice for commuters. Some of the biggest employers in the Columbia area include the state government, Palmetto Health hospital system, University of South Carolina and the energy company SCANA.
2. Fort Mill
Fort Mill, a suburb of Charlotte in York County, saw one of the highest increases in its millennial population from 2010 to 2013, with an increase of over 26%. Some of the largest employers in Fort Mill include Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Ross Distribution, Schaeffler Group USA, Citi Financial, US Foods, Shutterfly, Domtar and Daimler Trucks North America. Nearby attractions include the Anne Springs Close Greenway, Carowinds amusement park and the annual South Carolina Strawberry Festival.
About 1 in 5 residents are millennials in Greer. This suburb of Greenville boasts one of the lowest median rents on the list at $747 a month. For commuters, it's conveniently located along Interstates 85, 185 and 385. It also is home to the South Carolina Inland Port and lies next to the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. While Greer's economy was once rooted in textiles, it is now home to North America's only BMW manufacturing plant.
Ladson, a census-designated place in both Berkeley and Charleston counties, had one of the higher surges in its millennial population with an increase of 25% from 2010 to 2013. While it has the highest median rent on our list at $1,034, residents also have higher median salaries at nearly $50,000 a year. Ladson is primarily a bedroom community, but an auto manufacturer –- General Dynamics –- is based there. Ladson is bordered by both North Charleston and Summerville, and runs parallel to U.S. Route 78 and I-26. The best-known attractions in Ladson are the Coastal Carolina Fair held annually and the Exchange Park events center.
In Greenville, a city in upstate South Carolina, millennials make up 28% of the population. Residents here are fortunate to see some of the lowest rents on our list at $749 a month. The biggest employers in Greenville include Greenville Health System, School District of Greenville County, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, Michelin North America, GE Power & Water, as well as the county, state and federal governments. The city, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is famous for its unique Liberty Bridge and quaint, revitalized downtown. Several festivals are held every year including events dedicated to arts and crafts, comedy, comic books and science fiction, STEM activity, culinary arts and Shakespeare.
Hanahan, a city in Berkeley County, is just 13 miles from Charleston, and 22% of its population are millennials. Hanahan's proximity to Charleston, including major roads, makes it an ideal location for commuters. In addition, the city is home to Naval Weapons Station Charleston and a medium-security military prison. Residents have access to the Cooper River and Charleston Harbor as well as the Goose Creek Reservoir, a popular place for fishing.
Charleston is an urban magnet for millennials –- 30% of the population's 123,000 people are young adults. It's the biggest city on our list with a range of opportunities for job seekers. The city expects 11,000 new jobs in the region over the next two years, and over 25,000 new jobs in the next five years, according to the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. The main job boom is expected to be in fields including computers, software, science and engineering, sales and marketing and also in the medical industry. Charleston is above all a port city, and boasts the fastest-growing facility in the country, according to the chamber.
In Aiken, over 17% of the population are millennials. It's the county seat of Aiken County and it's one of the two largest cities in the Central Savannah River Area. Aiken's economy is steeped in energy and major employers include Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and the U.S. Department of Energy. Aiken is also home to the University of South Carolina at Aiken. The city features historic homes, equestrian activities, Aiken State Park, several arts organizations, the county farmers market and more.
9. Moncks Corner
Moncks Corner may be the smallest town on the list at just under 8,400 people, but millennials account for over 22% of the population. Millennial population growth was the highest on our list by far with a boom of nearly 53% from 2010 to 2013. The town is just 45 minutes from Charleston and is home to Berkeley County Airport. Residents find both the lowest rents and the lowest payrolls to match in Moncks Corner. Downtown includes progressive shops, restaurants, national retailers and small businesses as well as other attractions, including the Cypress Gardens.
10. North Charleston
North Charleston, just seven miles from Charleston, is the third-largest city in the state and the second biggest on our list with over 100,000 people. Nearly 29% of the population are millennials, who saw their population grow 11% from 2010 to 2013. The biggest employer by far is Joint Base Charleston, a military facility. The base shares its runway with Charleston International Airport, another area employer. And job seekers will also find opportunities at Boeing South Carolina, an assembly site for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, which is also a big employer in North Charleston.