Special Report

States Adding the Most Jobs Since the Great Recession

Portland, Maine 2
Source: Thinkstock

45. Maine
> 10-yr. employment change: -1.6%
> Employment change: -9,800
> Dec. unemployment: 3.8%
> Total employment: 610,900

Maine is one of just seven states to report employment declines since the end of 2007. In most of these seven states, the unemployment rate rose as well during this period and has remained relatively high. In Maine, on the other hand, unemployment fell by 1.1 percentage points, a greater improvement than in most states. The state’s current unemployment rate, at 3.8%, is well below the 4.7% national unemployment rate. The unemployment rate fell even as jobs declined because unemployed individuals left the labor force faster than total employment declined.

Farm in Winter with View of Mountains, West Virginia
Source: Thinkstock

44. West Virginia
> 10-yr. employment change: -0.4%
> Employment change: -2,700
> Dec. unemployment: 5.9%
> Total employment: 763,700

With a 5.9% jobless rate, unemployment is more of a problem in West Virginia than in all but a handful of other states. The state’s high unemployment rate is partially due to a dwindling number of employment options. As is the case in only half a dozen other states, there are fewer jobs in West Virginia today than there were 10 years ago.

The largest employment declines in the state were in industries that often have little educational barriers to entry such as manufacturing, mining, and construction. Job losses in these industries likely disproportionately affected members of the state’s labor force who lack a college education. Only 19.6% of adults in the state have earned a bachelor’s degree, the smallest share of any state in the country.

Port Newark, Petroleum, New Jersey
Source: Thinkstock

43. New Jersey
> 10-yr. employment change: +0.1%
> Employment change: 2,800
> Dec. unemployment: 4.7%
> Total employment: 4,086,400

Of all states to add jobs in the last 10 years, New Jersey’s employment growth was the most modest at 0.1%. There are about 4.1 million people working in the Garden State today, an increase of only 2,800 from 2007. Mirroring a nationwide trend, the largest employment gains in New Jersey were in the education, health care and social assistance sector, while the manufacturing industry shed the most jobs.

While New Jersey’s job growth was modest, many state residents who are working are very well compensated. The typical New Jersey household earns $72,222 a year, more than in all but three other states.

Unloading Truck Bloomington, Illinois
Source: Thinkstock

42. Illinois
> 10-yr. employment change: +0.3%
> Employment change: 17,400
> Dec. unemployment: 5.7%
> Total employment: 6,002,600

Employment in Illinois increased by 17,400 in the last decade, a 0.3% increase and the second smallest percentage gain of any state in the country. Modest job gains in the state have not been enough to meaningfully reduce unemployment. Today, unemployment in Illinois stands at 5.7%, a full percentage point higher than the U.S. unemployment rate.

Multiple sectors in Illinois, including wholesale trade, manufacturing, and finance and insurance, have shed jobs since 2007. No industry was hurt as badly as construction however. Nationwide, there are 1.4 million fewer people employed in construction jobs now than there were in 2007. Some 76,000 of those jobs were lost in Illinois.

Wichita, Kansas
Source: Thinkstock

41. Kansas
> 10-yr. employment change: +0.4%
> Employment change: 5,600
> Dec. unemployment: 4.2%
> Total employment: 1,392,400

With only 5,600 jobs added over the past decade, employment growth in Kansas has been a lackluster 0.4%. The vast majority of U.S. states had more rapid employment growth than Kansas. Despite the sluggish job growth, incomes grew faster than average in the state. The typical Kansas household earns $53,906 a year, $6,455 more than it did in 2007. Meanwhile, the median income across all U.S. households went up by only $5,035 over the same time period.

In Kansas, manufacturing jobs disappeared more rapidly than jobs in any other sector. Across the United States, increased reliance on automation and robotics, in addition to outsourcing, have reduced demand for manufacturing workers. Today, there are about 22,600 fewer workers employed in Kansas than there were a decade ago.