Special Report

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

Denver, Colorado 4
Source: Thinkstock

45. Colorado
> Underemployment rate: 7.3%
> June unemployment rate: 3.7% (10th lowest)
> Median wage: $38,800 (11th highest)
> Labor force growth: 2.8% (5th largest growth)

By many measures, Colorado has one of the most robust economies in the U.S. Between 2015 and 2016, the state’s labor force grew by 2.8%, the fifth fastest growth rate. Even as the number of job-seekers grew meaningfully in the state, unemployment went down over the same time period, dropping from 3.9% to 3.7%. In addition, only 3.3% of potential workers are forced to work in part-time positions when they would prefer full-time work. Nationwide, 3.8% of the same cohort is forced to accept part-time employment.

Fewer residents tend to be underemployed in states with greater high school attainment. More than 90% of adults in Colorado have a high school diploma, compared to the 86.9% of the nation’s adults who do.

Wichita, Kansas
Source: Thinkstock

44. Kansas
> Underemployment rate: 7.8%
> June unemployment rate: 3.8% (tied–13th lowest)
> Median wage: $33,700 (21st lowest)
> Labor force growth: 0.2% (9th smallest growth)

The job market in Kansas has plenty to offer those seeking full-time work. Job seekers in the state are the least likely in the country to become discouraged and drop out of the labor force. Only 0.1% of the state’s willing and able workers would like a job but have given up looking — the corresponding national share of discouraged workers is four times what it is in Kansas. Furthermore, only 3.0% are forced to accept part-time rather than full-time work.

Even by more traditional economic measures, Kansas looks better than much of the rest of the country. Only 3.8% of the workforce is unemployed, compared to a 4.9% national unemployment rate.

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Source: Thinkstock

43. Minnesota
> Underemployment rate: 7.8%
> June unemployment rate: 3.8% (tied–13th lowest)
> Median wage: $38,870 (10th highest)
> Labor force growth: 1.2% (25th smallest growth)

Not only is a relatively small 7.8% of Minnesota’s potential pool of workers unemployed or underemployed, but the typical worker is paid more than those in most states. The state’s median annual wage of $38,870 is the 10th highest in the country.

As is the case for most states with low underemployment, Minnesota’s labor force participation is high. Nationally, 62.7% of eligible residents are either employed or actively seeking work. In Minnesota the rate is 70.5%, the highest labor force participation in the country.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Source: Thinkstock

42. Utah
> Underemployment rate: 7.8%
> June unemployment rate: 4.0% (15th lowest)
> Median wage: $33,990 (23rd lowest)
> Labor force growth: 2.4% (10th largest growth)

Utah has one of the lowest underemployment rates of any state. Just 7.8% of all willing and able workers are unemployed, discouraged from seeking work, or working part-time for financial reasons. By comparison, the national underemployment rate is 9.9%.

Over the past year, the Utah labor force grew by 2.4%, twice the national growth rate. The state’s economy may not have been able to accommodate the new entrants, however. The unemployment rate rose from 3.6% to 4.0%, while in most of the country unemployment decreased.


Montpelier, Vermont
Source: Thinkstock

41. Vermont
> Underemployment rate: 8.1%
> June unemployment rate: 3.2% (5th lowest)
> Median wage: $37,040 (20th highest)
> Labor force growth: 0.5% (12th smallest growth)

Vermont’s economy weathered the recession remarkably well and has among the healthiest job markets by several measures. Vermont’s unemployment rate of 3.2% is close to the lowest in the country. The state’s high labor force participation rate, at 67.2%, together with low unemployment and underemployment, are all good signs of a healthy economy.

In Vermont, the low level of underemployment is also due to industry composition. Relatively high shares of Vermonters are employed in industries containing few part-time jobs. For example, close to 30% of the state’s workforce is employed by the education and health care industry, the highest of all states.