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Milwaukee, WI

The Bad: Milwaukee made the list because of its poor school performance and above-average crime rates, according to city-data.com. The city has struggled to boost job creation despite tax incentives across the state.

The Good: The city has transformed itself from an industrial center to a diversified city with financial services and healthcare among its biggest industries. It’s home to several companies including Northwestern Mutual, Kohl’s and Harley-Davidson, and more than a dozen universities. Plus, it’s undergone a revitalization and has many cultural and outdoor activities. It’s a nice place to live, with “diverse, colorful neighborhoods with strong civic pride,” Sperling said, adding that it’s also very affordable.

The Recovery: Unemployment is at 7.3 percent, down from 8.4 percent last August, though hiring hasn’t picked up significantly and the real estate market remains sluggish. The manufacturing sector is showing signs of recovery and a solar-production facility recently opened up here, which along with the other industries, should help the economy.

Photo: Getty Images