Location, Location, Location: Where Are the Happiest Workers?

Alex Howe

Time to play a free-association game. We’ll say a word; you note whatever comes to mind.


What’d you think of? Did it include a thriving work culture, featuring the happiest employees in America? Because that’s exactly what we discovered in our newly released Career Happiness Index.

We crunched the numbers on 194,645 U.S. kununu employer reviews from 2016, all of them capturing the honest, unfiltered opinion of real employees.

(Specifically, we took the average of four user-rating categories: “Support from Management,” “Challenging work,” “Office/work environment” and “Teamwork.”)

Clearly, some of our results surprised us.

After all, everyone knows it matters where you work (your employer). Our results emphasize that it can also matter where you work—geographically.



  • Some of our results were notable for being unsurprising. Cambridge, MA and Palo Alto are both much-ballyhooed startup hubs. Turns out, the hype about their work culture isn’t just hype: they’re #1 and #2 in our happiest cities for workers.
  • Additionally, Cambridge was the #1 city in our study for the “Challenging work” subrating. It makes sense, in a city teeming with MIT and Harvard grads.
  • If anything, the supremacy of California and Massachusetts startup culture may have been underestimated. Those two states contain 7 of our top 10 happiest cities, including far less heralded locales like Burbank, CA and Framingham, MA.
  • Employees in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Oakland have ample reason to be happy. Bay Area unemployment is at a 15-year low.
  • Surprises include Columbus, OH, which came in at #4! Actual residents probably aren’t flabbergasted; Columbus is home to the corporate headquarters of chains like The Limited and Abercrombie.
  • We shouldn’t have been so surprised by Arkansas: the Little Rock job market was named one of the strongest of 2016.
  • New Hampshire did not do well, coming in at #49, including a low Teamwork score. Maybe the Granite State—motto: “Live Free or Die”—is a little too committed to independent living.
  • Pennsylvania was another poor performer, coming in at #47. But! Philadelphia was our tenth-happiest city for employees. So, for those in PA, just don’t leave the City of Brotherly Love.
  • In our infographic above, note the mass of worker happiness near Canada. We wonder: is the legendary niceness of the Great White North spilling over the border?
  • South Dakota’s sunny outlook could be the result of their booming economy; it grew faster than any other state’s in late 2015.

Every city and state would love to claim that it’s a great place to work. But without real data and trustworthy feedback from actual employees, there’s no way to know which places are just marketing themselves—and which are legitimate oases of happy workers. Now we know! Hopefully our deep dive into our reviews helps you make decisions about your future job options.

The only question is: will Arkansas share its secrets with the world? Or at least with us? Email us, Arkansas.