Is your city high on dog walkers, but low on mechanics? Are you surrounded by behavioural therapists, but can’t find anyone to install a cable? A new study reveals which jobs are vanishing from the most expensive cities and which ones are thriving, in a dramatic illustration of how rising living costs are reshaping our neighbourhoods.
Jobs related to housing, construction and landscaping are being priced out of the richest cities, according to the study by the Indeed Hiring Lab, an employment think tank. However, there's good news for specialized therapists, designers and even pastry cooks: these jobs are up to 1,246% more likely to be found in the priciest urban spaces.
The survey analyzed job postings from 51 US cities with more than 1 million inhabitants, comparing the most expensive 10 metropolises with the rest. For example, there are 77% fewer job ads for trailer mechanics in the top 10, which include Miami and Washington, DC, compared with more affordable places, such as Dallas and Atlanta.
Concrete finishers, cable installers and groundskeepers are also among the “missing jobs”, as the researchers call them, as are customer service and call centre staff.
“In contrast, tech and science jobs tend to cluster in expensive metros, as do some high-end service jobs like fitness managers and pastry cooks,” the researchers said.
While the labour market has always evolved and adapted – there are few urban farriers or thatchers left, after all – this particular trend highlights the sharp divide between the priciest enclaves and the rest.
CityLab, which reported the study, warns that exiling entire job categories could ultimately hurt the vibrant ecosystem that defines a successful city: “The reason that large cities have become hubs of innovation is precisely because they encompass a broad diversity of people, jobs, and skills.”
What drives some jobs into urban extinction? The study names housing, office and labour costs as key factors: “It generally doesn’t make sense to put a service or support function that requires little face-to-face customer contact in a place where office space and labour cost more.”
Expensive housing also means that land is used more intensively. There are fewer single-family homes, meaning fewer lawns and fewer cars. In these costly and densely populated cities, people cycle or walk to work, or use public transport. There tend to be fewer newly built houses. All of this results in less demand for gardeners, builders and mechanics.
The jobs that thrive in these cities tend to be in science and technology, the arts and specialized management. Machine learning engineers – who work in a cutting-edge field of computer science – are more than five times more likely to be found there.
Artists and creative directors are also more prevalent in the top 10, perhaps surprisingly given that artists’ incomes tend to be on the low side. A separate study of the US arts industry by the London School of Economics may help explain this pattern. The study found that arts industries cluster in so-called “innovation districts”, that is, hubs of knowledge-driven sectors such as media, technology, finance and higher education. New York City, with its media, publishing and fine art scene, and Los Angeles, with its global film industry, are perfect examples of such creative clusters – and both are among the top 10 in the Indeed survey of expensive cities.
Well-paid young professionals are in turn more likely to employ a range of local service providers, such as the aforementioned therapists, personal trainers and dog walkers.
And the pastry chefs? The survey does not suggest a specific explanation, but one reason for their popularity in affluent cities could be the higher number of gourmet restaurants there. In fact, the causal link between high living costs and fine dining may go both ways. A study commissioned by the Financial Times showed that the awarding of a Michelin star to a restaurant can boost house prices in the surrounding area – by about 5%.