Special Report

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

Source: Thinkstock

5. Arizona
> Underemployment rate: 10.9%
> June unemployment rate: 5.1% (tied — 4th highest)
> Average wage: $48,530 (22nd highest)
> Labor force growth: 2.3% (5th largest increase)

While heavy inbound migration to Arizona has helped spur economic activity and job growth in recent years, labor underutilization in the state remains among the worst in the country. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of employed workers in the state rose by an average of 2.4% a year, far more than the 1.9% national rate.

Employment rose by 3.1% in 2016, the fourth most of any state. Still, Arizona’s underemployment rate fell from 11.7% one year ago to 10.9% today, a relatively small improvement for a state with such rapid job growth. While unemployment in the state fell, the share of the labor force who recently gave up on their job search remained at 1.3%, among the largest share of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

4. California
> Underemployment rate: 11.1%
> June unemployment rate: 4.7% (tied — 11th highest)
> Average wage: $62,947 (4th highest)
> Labor force growth: 1.1% (20th largest increase)

In California, 11.1% of the labor force are underemployed, far higher than the 9.5% national rate. One factor driving up the state’s high labor underutilization is the large share of workers settling for a part-time job after failing to find full-time employment, which at 4.6% is the second largest share of any state. While California’s underemployment rate has improved from 12.0% one year ago, the rate has yet to return to the pre-recessionary level of 9.1% in 2006.

Source: Thinkstock

3. Nevada
> Underemployment rate: 11.9%
> June unemployment rate: 4.7% (tied — 11th highest)
> Average wage: $47,092 (24th lowest)
> Labor force growth: 0.9% (21st largest increase)

Nevada’s GDP increased 2.4% in 2016, the fourth most of any state. While more than 1 in 4 workers in the state are employed in leisure and hospitality — the highest proportion of any state — economic growth was led by the state’s professional and business services, education and health services, and construction sectors. Employment in Nevada also grew fast. The number of employed workers rose at an average annual pace of 2.9% between 2011 and 2016, the fourth fastest pace of any state. Despite the diversified economic growth and rise in employment, labor underutilization remains high. Some 11.9% of the Nevada workforce is underemployed, a substantial decline from the 13.4% share one year ago, yet far higher than the state’s pre-recessionary rate of 6.8% in 2006. By comparison, the national underemployment rate is 9.5%.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Alaska
> Underemployment rate: 12.9%
> June unemployment rate: 6.8% (the highest)
> Average wage: $53,654 (14th highest)
> Labor force growth: -0.6% (3rd largest decline)

Few states are more dependent on oil production, or have been hurt more by the global drop in oil prices, than Alaska. An estimated 4.4% of workers in the state are employed in mining and logging, the second largest share in the nation. Before the price of crude oil fell — by more than two-thirds between 2014 and 2016 — petroleum revenue accounted for more than 90% of the Alaskan government’s general fund budget, which has had a consecutive deficit since 2013.

Alaska’s GDP fell 5.0% in 2016, the second largest contraction of any state. The slowdown in economic activity may have contributed to the rise in labor underutilization over the past year. Some 12.9% of Alaska’s labor force are underemployed, the second largest share of any state and a slight increase from 12.0% one year ago. Currently, the state’s 6.8% unemployment rate is the highest of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

1. New Mexico
> Underemployment rate: 13.0%
> June unemployment rate: 6.4% (2nd highest)
> Average wage: $42,596 (7th lowest)
> Labor force growth: 0.4%

In no state is it harder to find a job in than New Mexico. Some 6.4% of workers are unemployed, the second highest unemployment rate in the country. Also, some 4.6% of workers have settled for part-time job, and 1.3% have recently given up on looking for work. New Mexico is one of the only states in the country where labor underutilization increased over the past year — from 12.4% one year ago to 13.0%. The state’s high labor underemployment corresponds with the state’s sluggish economic growth. New Mexico’s GDP contracted by 0.5% last year, as the national GDP increased by 1.5%.