Special Report

Easiest (and Hardest) States to Find Full-Time Work

Rapid City, South Dakota
Source: Thinkstock

50. South Dakota
> Underemployment rate: 5.0%
> June unemployment rate: 2.7% (the lowest)
> Median wage: $30,780 (4th lowest)
> Labor force growth: 0.7% (17th smallest growth)

South Dakota is the best state for job seekers. The state’s June unemployment rate of 2.7% is the lowest of all states. While the official unemployment rate often fails to capture dissatisfied, underemployed workers, South Dakota’s underemployment rate of 5.0% is also the lowest of all states and nearly half the national underemployment rate of 9.9%. In South Dakota, both labor force measurements improved significantly from a year ago.

On the other hand, wages in the state are not especially high. The average worker earns just $30,780 annually, nearly the lowest of all states.

North Dakota, Oil Pump, Fracking
Source: Thinkstock

49. North Dakota
> Underemployment rate: 5.7%
> June unemployment rate: 3.2% (5th lowest
> Median wage: $38,170 (15th highest)
> Labor force growth: 1.3% (23rd largest growth)

Not many states fared better during the recession than North Dakota. Largely due to a booming oil industry, the North Dakota unemployment rate rose by less than half a percentage point between 2005 and 2010, the least of any state.

After a substantial decline in oil prices, however, the state’s growth has slowed meaningfully. The state’s labor force grew by just 1.3% over the last year, half its growth rate five years prior. Nevertheless, the state still has one of the most inclusive economies in the country today. Just 5.7% of all people willing and able to work in the state are underemployed, compared to a 9.9% underemployment rate nationwide.

Omaha, Nebraska
Source: Thinkstock

48. Nebraska
> Underemployment rate: 6.2%
> June unemployment rate: 3.0% (3rd lowest)
> Median wage: $33,840 (22nd lowest)
> Labor force growth: 0.8% (20th smallest growth)

Nebraska’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country. Just 3.0% of the labor force is unemployed, the third smallest share of any state. Nebraska’s low unemployment rate coincides with small shares of potential full-time workers who are discouraged from seeking work or who are settling for part-time jobs. In Nebraska 6.2% of all workers and potential workers are either unemployed, discouraged from seeking work, or working part-time when they would prefer to work full-time — the third lowest of any state.
The finance sector is much less likely to employ individuals part-time when they would prefer full-time jobs. Of the state’s total employment, 7.6% work in finance, the seventh highest share among all states.

Des Moines, Iowa
Source: Thinkstock

47. Iowa
> Underemployment rate: 7.0%
> June unemployment rate: 4.0% (15th lowest)
> Median wage: $33,650 (19th lowest)
> Labor force growth: 0.7% (18th smallest growth)

Iowa’s job market is well-suited for those seeking full-time employment. Only 7.0% of adults in the state are unemployed, discouraged from seeking a job, or work part-time when a full-time job is preferred. The industries present in a state can meaningfully affect underemployment. Finance jobs, for example, are less likely to employ workers part-time when they would prefer full-time jobs.

The state’s finance and insurance sector, for example, employs 7.4% of the Iowa workforce, the eighth largest share nationwide. The state also has the smallest share of workers employed in the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector — industries which tend to have a high proportion of part-time employees.

Dover, New Hampshire
Source: Thinkstock

46. New Hampshire
> Underemployment rate: 7.2%
> June unemployment rate: 2.8% (2nd lowest)
> Median wage: $37,280 (18th highest)
> Labor force growth: 1.3% (24th largest growth)

Just 7.2% of New Hampshire’s willing and able workers are either unemployed or not employed to the extent that they would like.

As is the case with the vast majority of states with low underemployment, New Hampshire’s population tends to have high educational attainment. While 86.9% of U.S. adults graduated from high school, 92.2% of New Hampshire adults have done the same. Generally, higher employment tends to lead to higher household incomes and lower poverty. Just 9.2% of New Hampshire’s population lives below the poverty line, the lowest proportion in the country.