Which states have the best and worst job markets right now?

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One of the most frequently asked questions of the post-recession is, “Where are the jobs?” And we dutifully attempt to point you in the right direction, whether it’s our weekly list of companies hiring, a monthly list of companies hiring, or our occasional look at the state of employment around the country. All of the above have one thing on common: They point to signs that jobs are out there for the taking, even if they’re not at the pre-recession levels.

Such is the case with the recently released employment figures and unemployment rates for each state in May, the most recent month for data is available. The data, as tallied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reveals mixed news for job seekers throughout the country. Certainly, anything less than “unemployment reaches an all-time low” is going to be unwelcome news for many frustrated and discourage job seekers. However, compared to where the employment status has been over the past few years, we’re still trending in the right direction (even though we’re seeing hiccups here and there).

(The release contains more numbers and statistics than the average person cares to read, so if you want information for each state, look here.)

Here’s what we do know from April to May:

  • 24 states experienced decreases in their unemployment rates
  • 13 states and Washington, D.C., experienced increases in unemployment rates
  • 13 states had no change in their unemployment rates

Perhaps most telling and promising are the year-over-year figures:

  • 43 states and Washington, D.C., experienced decreased unemployment rates
  • 4 states experienced increased unemployment rates
  • The unemployment rate was 0.5 percent lower

When looking at states with the largest growth in employment month-over-month, you can look at both the raw numbers of employed workers and the percentages:

  • Florida added the most jobs, with 28,000
  • Ohio added the second most jobs, with 12,000
  • Arizona and Louisiana each added 10,100 jobs
  • Texas added 8,800 jobs
  • In terms of percentage, Wyoming experienced the largest growth with 0.8 percent
  • Louisiana came in second with a 0.5 percent increase
  • Arizona and Florida each saw a 0.4 percent increase

For the not-so-great news in month-over-month news:

  • California saw the steepest decrease, losing 29,200 jobs
  • New York came in second with a 24,700 loss in jobs
  • Pennsylvania experienced a 14,200 decrease in jobs
  • Alaska’s employment dropped 1.5 percent, the largest decline
  • Vermont’s employment decreased by 1.2 percent
  • Delaware saw a 0.9 percent drop in employment

When looking at the good and bad in year-over-year numbers, here’s what we know compared to 2010:

  • 39 states experienced increases in employment
  • 11 states and Washington, D.C., saw decreases in employment
  • North Dakota experienced the largest employment percentage gain with 4.3 percent
  • Texas saw the second-largest gain, with 1.9 percent
  • The largest decrease occurred in Maryland at 0.8 percent
  • New Mexico was second was a decrease of 0.7 percent

And if what you want is to know where your best chances are for finding work, you can look to North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and South Dakota, which registered the lowest unemployment rates in the country, ranging from 3.2 percent to 4.8 percent, respectively. Nevada and California have the worst unemployment rates, with 12.1 percent and 11.7 percent respectively.

Looking at where we are today can feel frustration or just downright confusing. If we’re post-recession, as experts say, shouldn’t we feel post-recession? Shouldn’t every state be adding jobs and employment rates be increasing steadily? Ideally, yes. In reality, the economic turnaround isn’t an overnight occurrence, and the year-over-year numbers show an overwhelmingly positive trend.

Far be it for me or anyone to tell job seekers, “See, it’s not that bad!” because when you’re having trouble finding a job, all that matters is whether or not you’re close to earning a paycheck. And looking at this information, the best news we can take from this is that there is more good news than bad coming out of monthly employment reports.

That’s what the report says. But we want to hear from you, the job seekers, both employed and unemployed, what kind of changes you’ve seen from this time last. Is the job market improving for you? Do you see more opportunities out there? Are your friends and family having better luck finding work? Let us know.

24 Comments
  1. I live in the Washington, DC area. The job market isn’t that great to me. People are still having a hard time finding jobs and others are still getting laid off. As for the nation being in post recession; says who?

  2. Unemployment rates that are decreasing are not only because people have found jobs, its also because unemployment has run out. Trust me, there are plenty of us out there who are no longer counted because our unemployment has run out.

  3. I’ve been unemployed for almost a year, after taking a hiatus from my career as a writer to care for a terminally ill parent. I am also technically an “older” worker, at age 42. I currently live in the Raleigh-Durham, NC area, and can’t even get a call for an interview for entry-level clerical or retail jobs. I grew up in the Triangle, but my reality as a creative professional is that if I want to work, I’ll have to relocate. This sounds incredibly self-centered, but I’ll believe the job market is improving when I see it affect me personally.

  4. Most unemployment numbers are deceptive. when unemployment is very high many people move to find work in a better market. there was an article in Time magazine in the last year that shined a light on this. when people move unemployment goes down.

    • But when you move for work, when you get where you’re going you’re “new in town” and employers won’t hire you if you’re not “from around here.” At least that’s what’s going on in most of the states with the highest unemployment. Locals first, last, and always.

  5. Not only is unemployment high and like the one said many not counted as unemployment has run out and many others (like me) who took a 40% plus cut to not be on unemployment and are now considered under-employed.
    Our politiciians need to do the same and feel their constituents pain…that would do 2 things for this country -
    1 – help our debt
    2 – show they work for the people
    This county and it’s political leaders forget who put and keep them there…

    • Susan,

      Thank you for pointing out a factor that oftens goes un-discussed in many articles, under employment. Many have been forced to take jobs that are well beneath his or her skills set, for survival means. Articles such as this one provide a sense of false “hope” that all is well again in the marketplace. While the job market is rebounding, it will be a while before we see the balance again

  6. I can say that, in Michigan, job prospects have definitely gotten much better than they were in 2010. But the manufacturing jobs that used to be the basis of the state economy have been being outsourced since the 1980s, and because of union concessions, the manufacturing jobs that are left don’t pay about half has much as they used to.

  7. I live in Illinois and the job market is not what it claims. I work part time and work only one or two day/s a week how can anyone survive on this? So if companies are hiring F/ T I’m in! I would rather work 20-40 hrs a week that covers part-time and full-time working hourly positions.

  8. As a Government IT Contractor, I know that American technology companies are planning to hire more people in the next six months as many key positions continue to remain vacant due to shortage of skilled IT professionals. So you should have good chances of getting jobs if you are in the IT Industry.

    Than Nguyen
    GSA IT Schedule 70
    http://www.insourcegroupfederal.com

    • The key words here are “skilled IT professionals”, which means plenty of experience. This unfortunately does not affect majority of us that are going into IT as a career change due to the economy. I will have an IT degree in December, but find getting a job, even entry level, is more difficult than trying to get another job in my current field. Great news for those IT professionals that already have a job though.

  9. I work near Washington DC. I hear all the time how people can’t find a job. I think you are looking in the wrong places. Where I am working we are short handed all the time. So i know there are jobs out there. I work For CPI aka Sears portraits

  10. I am employed but the company cut the workforce by 50% and is asking for an increase in produtivity of what we had with all the employees or we can look for another job!

  11. According to this Florida added the most job, WHERE? my roommate and myself have been unemployed for over a year and still no jobs in site.

  12. I live in North Dakota and although we are getting attention for having jobs and low unemployment, what they are not telling you is that the jobs available are for barely more than minimum wage. A lot of the jobs are fast food, department stores, etc. We don’t have big businesses or factories. Those we have don’t hire that often. I have multiple degree’s and cannot get inteviews for jobs I am qualified for. It’s also small town mentality which means they like to hire people they know.

  13. What they never discuss in these articles are the issues that would make this story not so rosy. Like what kind of jobs are being created, here at my employer they have cut the wages by 30% so those new jobs don’t pay as much. And they never say what those new jobs pay, so how do you live on what those jobs pay? Most of the people here have atleast 2 jobs. Just a short time ago, McDonalds was hiring 50,000, ok that is a job, but you can live on that income, not if you have a family and probably not if you are single. Barely being able to pay your bills, with no luxuries, is not making a living.

  14. I read an article not too long ago which stated that the majority of Human Resource personnel interviewing for higher paying job openings these days require workers to be skilled in many areas beyond their degrees. I don’t mean knowing how to do general office duties such as: filing, preparing mailings, making travel arrangements, or setting up a conference calls, etc. Pretty much anyone can do those tasks, they just don’t want to! I mean more along the lines of say a bigger name actor who also works on stage settings, makes costumes, and coordinates stunts in addition to directing while acting too. If those doing the interviews are being so demandingly picky, what hope do us average folks have in finding gainful employment?

  15. Ya know, I’ve read so many different columns/articles where the author or news reporter was stating that “good news is abound”,”things are looking up” “it seems the economy is starting to rebound – slightly”. The one thing that they all have in common is the additional comments from their readers. I TOTALLY agree with everyone of the comments and I’d BET the authors would verbally agree as well if their job didn’t depend on it. People who right these articles, it seems either don’t have a true sense of what’s occurring in our beautiful country or they are just trying to be “positive” for everyone involved. Me. I’m practicle. Give me the TRUTH. I and I believe we all could do alot more with it than what we as a nation have been receiving since I can remember. I like the idea of “our” politicians taking a 50% cut in wages as well (or more?) and actually working for their positions. I really don’t feel they know how to even lift a hammer. Our forefathers of whom were elected by the people and for the people and lived next to or very near by the people all their youthful lives.
    I am also unemployed with multiple degrees and worked as an under-employed individual who never was able to trully pay their bills and save money, you know TRY to get OUT of debt not further in. What do you fine folks think? The truth or what has been given to us by the media uptil now? I’m just saying what MANY ARE thinking!

  16. Pingback: 47 percent of employers plan to add workers by year's end | Better Jobs Advice

  17. I live in Florida and i can tell you there are no jobs. Until we make our trade agreements fairer or eliminate them (preferre) we will continue to have no jobs. Another problem is that our politicians are bought and paid for so they are not acting in our best interests. The only politician addressing these issue is Donald Trump here lately. I know he went on a wingnut binge but lately he is sounding pretty rational.

  18. Come to the permian basin of west texas and southeast,nm we have a ton of oilfield work and all oilfield companies are in need of help. Most of these jobs are high paying with good benefits,401k,etc. Halliburton,baker hughes,weatherford are just a few of the many. INDEED.COM has most of these listings.

  19. Well, for one thing, all the jobs that are available require that you not be UNemployed. Or not for more than like 6 months. Or they check credit. Or they go over your background with a fine-tooth comb. Or they discriminate based on age. Or they commit document abuse in hiring, filling out the I-9, and doing the background check. Or, something or another. And ya da ya da ya da. Always something.

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