Special Report

States Where It's Hardest to Find Full-Time Work

4. Oregon
> Underemployment rate: 15.8%
> Unemployment rate: 6.7% (14th highest)
> GDP growth 2012-2013: 4.5% (14th highest)
> Labor force growth 2007-2014: 0.7% (18th lowest)

Like most states with struggling labor markets, Oregon’s underemployment rate has been at least 15% each year since 2009. Statewide unemployment rates have been routinely above the national average over the same period. However, unlike other states where it’s hard to find work, Oregon’s GDP growth was among the strongest in the country, growing at an annualized rate of 4.3% between 2007 and 2014. And while housing prices fell by nearly 28% during the recession, Oregon homes had regained much of their pre-recession value as of 2013.

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3. Arizona
> Underemployment rate: 16.1%
> Unemployment rate: 7.5% (5th highest)
> GDP growth 2012-2013: 2.8% (15th lowest)
> Labor force growth 2007-2014: 1.4% (23rd lowest)

While housing prices in Arizona improved in 2013 compared to the year before, home values were just 70% what they were in 2007, among the largest declines in the nation. As Kohli explained, Arizona’s construction sector was hit particularly hard as housing prices fell. This has likely not helped the state’s labor market, which has been slow to recover. Arizona’s unemployment rate of 7.5% is one of the highest in the nation. The average weekly wage for those who are employed recently dropped 1.5%, the second-steepest wage decline in the country.

2. California
> Underemployment rate: 16.7%
> Unemployment rate: 7.3% (8th highest)
> GDP growth 2012-2013: 2.6% (25th highest)
> Labor force growth 2007-2014: 3.7% (13th highest)

California’s GDP grew at an annualized rate of 2.4% between 2007 and 2014, one of the lower rates in the country. Low GDP growth is likely related to a poor job market. During the peak of the recession, underemployment rose above 22%, second only to Nevada. Unlike other states on this list, California’s underemployment rate and labor force are both rising, which is an indication that the job market is improving moderately. California cities were among the hardest hit by the recession. California’s housing market was hit very hard during the recession. As of 2013, statewide housing prices were still 28% lower than their 2007 levels.

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1. Nevada
> Underemployment rate: 17.4%
> Unemployment rate: 7.8% (4th highest)
> GDP growth 2012-2013: 2.4% (9th lowest)
> Labor force growth 2007-2014: 4.9% (6th highest)

Nevada’s underemployment rate more than doubled between 2007 and the first quarter of 2014, where it currently stands at 17.4%, the highest rate in the country. State GDP growth was nearly stagnant between 2007 and 2013, growing at an annualized rate of 0.8%, the lowest rate in the country. Slow GDP growth was likely caused by the collapse of Nevada’s housing market in 2008, when average home prices fell 27%. Between 2011 and 2013, however, home prices rebounded, growing by 25%. And while construction jobs also appear to be returning to the state, housing and related sectors still have a long way to go before they return to pre-recession levels. Wage growth may provide a glimmer of hope for Nevada’s employed residents. In the year prior to June 2014, wages grew at nearly 3%, the eighth-highest rate in the country.