No. 8 Austin, Texas

Our number-eight pick is fun, funky and full of career opportunities.

Population: 1,533,263

Income Growth: 7%

Cost of Living Index: 94

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Median Household Income: $54,827

Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class: 37%

Leave it to Austin to ruin the curve. While most cities around the country posted job layoffs in the past year, Austin added 3,300 jobs, the biggest bump in the country. The increase covered a broad swath, from professional services, education and hospitality to health care and government. Gains in those sectors more than offset losses in manufacturing and information technology -- though the unemployment rate in the area has crept up.

Why the solid showing amid general economic gloom? Give most of the credit to government and higher education. State government employs 170,000, a fifth of the city's workforce; the University of Texas at Austin alone employs more than 6,000 people. As for the private sector, tech companies remain a driving force.

Austin's economy isn't all wonk and no play: Its thriving music scene culminates in South by Southwest, a music festival in March that enriches the local economy by more than $100 million per year.

NEXT: No. 9 Flagstaff

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Jane Bennett Clark
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
The late Jane Bennett Clark, who passed away in March 2017, covered all facets of retirement and wrote a bimonthly column that took a fresh, sometimes provocative look at ways to approach life after a career. She also oversaw the annual Kiplinger rankings for best values in public and private colleges and universities and spearheaded the annual "Best Cities" feature. Clark graduated from Northwestern University.