Capital City among cheapest places in U.S.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
According to a Wall Street Cheat Sheet article written last week, Jefferson City is among the top places to live in the United States, if you’re looking solely at saving some green.
The Capital City locked in the No. 8 spot among least expensive cities throughout the nation. The Cheat Sheet writer took into account personal income gains, unemployment rates, median home costs, property values, and the price of goods and services.
City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus said the local city government does watch those statistics and “certainly knew consumer prices were low, but (they) were surprised they were that much lower than other places.”
“We are usually lower than other parts of Missouri and other parts of the country,” Nickolaus said.
He said the study takes into account the greater metropolitan area, including surrounding towns outside the city and county limits.
“(The rating) is just another thing that makes Jefferson City a great place to live,” he said.
One major factor contributing to the low cost of living is the city’s low unemployment rate. The report shows Jefferson City has a 5.2 percent rate, well below the national average of 7.6 percent.
“We are a net importer of jobs, meaning there are a lot more jobs in Jefferson City than there are people,” he said.
Every day, 37,000 people commute into the city for work, which in turn keeps the unemployment rate down. He attributed some of that to the city’s largest employer, state government. Although the state has been downsizing, it is not through massive layoffs, he said, which helps those rates.
Nickolaus also noted Jefferson City’s home prices are consistently lower than those in other parts of the country. The average cost of living in Jefferson City is 96 percent of the national average, with median home costs at 83 percent of the national average, and property taxes below average as well.
When the real-estate bubble increased, the city did not see its home prices increase to the level in other cities, putting Jefferson City below the national average.
“The good side of that was when the bubble burst, our home prices didn’t fall either. Our home prices are very consistent and very level,” Nickolaus said.
Another theory the city administrator has for low home prices is that Jefferson City does not see a lot of turnover in terms of population. “People tend to stay here over a long period of time,” he said, meaning houses may not be put on the market as often as in other cities.
Many people consistently question Jefferson City’s gas prices. Nickolaus said although “our gas prices tend to be higher here ... in general, Missouri is much lower than the rest of the country.” Local residents tend to look at gas prices on a regional level, versus a national level.
One other Missouri city made the Top 8 list as well, as Cape Girardeau, which was paired with neighboring Jackson, Ill., claimed the No. 5 least expensive city in America. Other cities listed in the report included (from least to greatest) Dalton, Ga.; Michigan City-La Porte, Ind.; Sandusky, Ohio; Jonesboro, Ark.; Danville, Ill.; and Morristown, Tenn.
Among those cities listed, Jefferson City had the lowest unemployment rate.
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