The lighter side of real estate

The 10 Hardest Working Mid-Sized Cities

Find out which mid-sized cities know how to roll up their sleeves and get things done.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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We’ve all heard that the United States is a melting pot of sorts—of people, of cultures, languages, condiments. There is one thing, though, in this country that ties us all together. Well—this and ketchup.

It’s hard work.

We’re a country based on the idea that anyone—no matter our race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social, or economic status—any one of us can achieve our goals; and from small towns to large, our country is made up of hard workers. Of dreamers. Of go-getters. This is what sets us apart from other nations. This is what makes us great.

All that being said, sometimes there is only so much work you can do in a day. For example, Movoto Real Estate recently came up with a list of the 50 Hardest Working Cities in America, ranking the 100 most populous cities in the US by several criteria. Believe me, the list itself was a lot of hard work—and yet, perhaps justifiably so, some readers were not satisfied. Where were the Wacos, the Alexandrias, the Elk Groves, and Fullertons? Aren’t the smaller cities in the US just as hard working as the larger; at times, even more so?

So with your feedback and comments in mind, we set out to determine the hardest working mid-sized cities in America. Here are the top 10:

  1. Miramar, FL
  2. Corona, CA
  3. Mesquite, TX
  4. Olathe, KS
  5. Grand Prairie, TX
  6. Alexandria, VA
  7. McKinney, TX
  8. Pembroke Pines, FL
  9. Rancho Cucamonga, CA
  10. Hampton, VA

Now I don’t know what they’re putting in the water in these ten cities, but they all seem to have that southern work ethic, pushing them to the top. If you’re up for the task—and I know you are—read on to find out how I came up with these cities.

Working Hard or Hardly Working

If you’re a frequenter of the Movoto Blog, you’re probably familiar with the drill, but for those rookies on the job, here’s the low down. For our Big Deal Lists, we look at a number of criteria—in this case five—and compare them to 100 cities in the US—in this case, 100 mid-sized cities. We then take the average score of all the criteria and calculate each city’s Big Deal Score. The city with the lowest score across all criteria is the winner, and in this case, the hardest working city in America. I wonder what the prize would be? Perhaps a day off?

What Makes a City Hard Working?



There are lots of things that could define a city as hardworking—the number of dreams fulfilled, the percentage of residents who feel accomplished at the end of the day, the number of people who feel they’re making a difference; who feel they’re just exhausted…

Like I said, lots of ways you could go with this. I, however, needed to go the measurable way with it. So I came up with the following criteria:

  • The percent of people working more than 35 hours per week
  • Unemployment rate
  • Commute time to work
  • The number of working parents

As you have most likely noticed, this list seems to be rather short of criteria, compared to our usual five, six, or even seven or eight. But I assure you, this isn’t because I wasn’t working hard (San Francisco, after all, was ranked one of our hardest working large cities!); it is because there simply isn’t the same data out there for these smaller cities.

To find out where, how, and why I did get the data that I did, keep on truckin’ to the end of this post.

And Speaking of Truckin’ Along…

I decided to go with the average commute time to work as my first criteria. Now I know this isn’t technically part of the work day, but it certainly isn’t exactly leisure time either. For many of us time in the car or on the bus is spent on the phone with work, with clients, or even responding to emails. First of all, let me point out how absolutely dangerous and ridiculous this is. Second of all, let me congratulate you for multitasking, you hard-workers, you.

In order to find this information, I relied on the U.S. Census. The clear winner (or loser, depending on how you look at it) was Palmdale, CA, with an average commute time of 40 minutes, closely followed by Moreno Valley, CA. In fact, most of the cities with the longest commute time were in either California or Texas—which makes sense when you think about it.

So congratulations, Palmdale. You may be stuck sitting in your car just shy of an hour each day, but it sure does show your dedication to get to work. Gold star for you!

Hard Work Means Having Work

This next criterion might seem self-explanatory, but I’ll go ahead and spell it out—you’ve been working hard all day already. I used the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find out each city’s unemployment rate, because to me, a hard working city means, well, a hard working city. The winner in this category, meaning the city with the lowest unemployment rate, was Sioux Falls, SD, with just 3.7 percent unemployment! That is very impressive considering the average in the U.S. continues to hover around 7.5-8.

So what about the mid-sized city with the highest rate of unemployment? That honor went to Paterson, NJ with an impressive 14.9 percent. I’m not sure what the opposite of a gold star is, but whatever it is, Paterson should get it—or maybe create some jobs trying to build it.

Working 9 to 5

Source: Flickr user betsyweber

Source: Flickr user betsyweber

To find out how many workers in each city held full-time jobs—meaning those who work more than 35 hours per week— I turned, once again, to the U.S. Census. The interesting thing here is that the reports that I relied used, not only separated out the number of people who worked full-time in each city—they also distinguished between men and women.

Number one in this category was Alexandria, VA, with 53 percent of its population working full-time! Compare that, to, say, Peoria, AZ where only 25 percent of the working population has full-time jobs, and you’ll see why Alexandria is the winner here.

Here’s where it gets fun: not only was Alexandria a winner, but specifically, the ladies of Alexandria were winners—41,246 women, compared to 36,595 men hold full-time jobs in Alexandria. Ladies, keep on keepin’ on; gentlemen, don’t worry; I hear the workforce is getting more equal every day.

So already, both men and women with long commutes, full-time jobs, and in cities with low unemployment rates, are already working pretty hard. But just for the cherry on top of this already thinly stretched piece of cake…

Let’s Throw Some Kids Into the Mix

Yes. If you thought you were working hard because you have a 9-5, or even an 8-6 or 6-9—that’s nothing if you don’t have kids at home, because as parents know, that is where the real work begins. Well, that’s what my parents tell me anyway.

So to find the number of parents in the workforce, I turned, once again, to the U.S. Census. Interestingly, Peoria, AZ, the city with the highest unemployment rate, came up again as the city with the most working parents—nearly 50 percent of their total population is made up of parents with kids at home under 17. This is truly a staggering feat, considering the runner up, Miramar, FL, is only made up of 21 percent working parents, and most cities come in with about 15 percent.

As far as the city with the lowest percentage of working parents goes, Frisco, TX took the lead where just 6 percent of the population are working parents, closely followed by Columbia, SC with 9 percent.

The Bottom Line

Alright, business folks, here’s the bottom line: The hardest working mid-sized city in the US was Mirarmar, FL with its below average unemployment rate, the high percentage of parents working more than 35 hours a week and driving a heck of a ways to get there. So job well done, Miramar. Literally.

Hardest Working Mid Sized Cities Table

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posted on: October 10, 2013
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