The Eau Claire metropolitan area got some good news recently, faring well in a study of the best-paying cities for those of the ages 16 to 24., a free online tool that labels itself “an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related,” released the report, which is primarily based on U.S. Census Bureau data. The study assessed metro areas in three categories by population: small (100,000 to 350,000), midsize (350,000 to 1 million) and large (more than 1 million).

Eau Claire was third among among small metro areas and maintained that ranking when all metro areas were taken into account regardless of size.

“Luckily for this new wave of workers, it’s a job seeker’s market,” reads the report. “... the unemployment rate among young people has been steadily declining since 2010, the height of the Great Recession.

“Among 16- to 24-year-olds, the unemployment rate for the second quarter of 2019 was 8.3 percent (down from 19 percent at the end of 2009).”

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Niles-Benton Harbor, Mich., took the top spot among small metropolitan areas and Michigan City-La Porte, Ind., was second. Also making the rankings were La Crosse-Onalaska, No. 21; Sheboygan, No. 38; Janesville-Beloit, No. 47; Oshkosh-Neenah, No. 74; Wausau, No. 75; and Racine, No. 103.

“Overall, cities in the Midwest tend to pay young workers the highest wages when taking cost of living into account,” the report states.

The data on Eau Claire included:

• Median earnings for full-time workers under 25 (adjusted for cost of living): $35,516.

• Median earnings for full-time workers under 25 (unadjusted): $32,000.

• Median earnings for all full-time workers (unadjusted): $45,000.

• Population under 25: 35.5%.

• Cost of living: 10% below the national average.

In comparison, median earnings for this age group nationally came to $25,700, median earnings for all full-time workers was $46,000 and the population of those under 25 was 33.5 percent.

“The analysis showed that cities like Eau Claire ... offer young workers a more robust job market, higher wages and lower living costs when compared to cities like San Francisco and New York,” reads a news release on the report.

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The large category in the study saw Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa, at No. 1, Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis at No. 5 and the Twin Cities/Bloomingon at No. 13. Akron, Ohio, was first among midsize areas.

“Although big cities have historically attracted droves of recent graduates, the high costs of living in places like New York City, Washington D.C., and San Francisco make it hard for young people to afford rent while also paying off student loans and enjoying city life,” the report states. “Fortunately, there are alternatives with robust job markets, competitive wages, and lower living costs.”

Such studies should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s a positive that we’re considered one of those alternatives.

Liam Marlaire, assistant editor