What do Milwaukee, Syracuse and Hartford have in common?

They are all – believe it or not – the nation’s most notable “up-can-coming place to live,” according to a new national analysis of the top places to live in the U.S.

In calculating the second-annual ranking of the Best Places to Live in the U.S., which evaluates the 100 most populous metro areas in the country based on qualities that Americans care about most, U.S. News looked at affordability, employment opportunities and the overall quality of life in each place.  Hartford’s ranking jumped from number 59 a year ago to number 31 this year, among the largest leaps of any city in the nation.

The leading reason cited by the publication is the increase in jobs.

“The Hartford region has seen some strong employment growth in a number of high-productivity sectors, including professional, technical services, education and health services,” said Alissa DeJonge, vice president of research at the Connecticut Economic Resource Center.

The types of job opportunities that are available in the Hartford area tend to pay well, the publication points out, “with residents earning nearly $57,000 per year on average, which is significantly more than the average American’s salary of $48,320 per year. United Technologies Corp. provides employment to residents in the manufacturing and engineering sectors, and the region is home to some of the country’s largest financial institutions, including Aetna Inc. and the Hartford Financial Services Group.”

“Hartford is known as the ‘insurance capital’ of the U.S., a title substantiated with Connecticut ranking No. 1 in the U.S. for insurance employment per capita, with many of those employers located in the Hartford region,” added Susan Winkler, executive director of Connecticut Insurance and Financial Services. “Connecticut is also home to the highest concentration of actuaries – many located in the Hartford region.”

The U.S. News review also notes that the region features a diverse selection of restaurants and cultural attractions. Paul Pita, CEO and executive creative director of Hartford-based digital marketing firm The Pita Group, told U.S. News “Hartford is a great place to live because residents have access to what they need: great options for housing, great educational options and a wide variety of lifestyle options for food, arts, culture, entertainment and outdoor activities.”

Syracuse moved from #53 to #28, and Milwaukee climbed from #72 to #47.  The top 10 places to live in the U.S., according to the rankings, are Austin, Denver, San Jose, Washington D.C., Fayetteville, Seattle, Raleigh/Durham, Boston, Des Moines, Salt Lake City and Colorado Springs.  Portland, Maine ranked #26 and Albany ranked #30, just ahead of Hartford.  New Haven ranked #81 in the top 100.

The metro areas included in the rankings were evaluated by U.S. News using data from sources including the United States Census Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Labor and U.S. News’ own internal resources. This data was categorized into five indexes – Job Market (including salary and unemployment rates), Value Index (including cost of living), Quality of Life Index (including education, crime, commuting, and health care), Desirability Index, and Net Migration – and then evaluated using a methodology determined by Americans’ preferences. The percent weighting for each index was determined by the answers to a public survey in which people from across the country voted for what they believed was the most important thing to consider when thinking about moving, according to U.S. News.

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