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

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50. South Dakota
> Underemployment rate: 5.7%
> June unemployment rate: 3.0% (tied –6th lowest)
> Average wage: $41,177 (4th lowest)
> Labor force growth: 0.5% (17th smallest increase)

Just 5.7% of the South Dakota labor force are underemployed. In addition to those counted in the traditional unemployment measure, some workers are either working a part-time job when they would prefer full-time employment or have been recently discouraged from participating in the workforce altogether. The state’s underemployment rate is the smallest of any state. One factor partly responsible for South Dakota’s healthy job market is the state’s growing retail sector, which contributed more to statewide GDP growth in 2016 than any sector other than education and health services. An estimated 12.4% of South Dakota workers are employed in retail, the fifth largest share of any state.

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49. North Dakota
> Underemployment rate: 6.2%
> June unemployment rate: 2.3% (tied –the lowest)
> Average wage: $48,873 (21st highest)
> Labor force growth: 0.5% (18th smallest increase)

After the discovery of the Parshall Oil Field on the Bakken formation in 2006, North Dakota experienced an oil boom that led to low unemployment and nation-leading GDP growth. The state’s crude oil production increased more than tenfold over the past decade, from 108,000 barrels a day in 2006 to a peak of 1.2 million in 2015.

After the price of oil plummeted in 2014, however, the state’s economy began to falter. In 2016, the state GDP declined by a nation-worst 6.5%. Still, just 6.2% of the North Dakota workforce are currently underemployed — either looking for work and unable to find it, unable to find full-time employment and settling for a part-time job, or too discouraged to continue looking for work — tied with Nebraska for the second smallest share nationwide.

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48. Nebraska
> Underemployment rate: 6.2%
> June unemployment rate: 2.9% (tied –4th lowest)
> Average wage: $43,606 (10th lowest)
> Labor force growth: 0.3% (14th smallest increase)

Only 6.2% of the Nebraska labor force are out of a job or underemployed — the second smallest share of any state. The state has a strong job market despite below average employment growth. Employment in the state increased by only 0.1% last year and by an annual average of 1.4% over each of the last five years. In comparison, nationwide employment grew by 1.7% and 1.9%, respectively.

As evidence of the state’s strong job market, just 0.1% of the labor force has given up looking for work recently. Nebraska is one of only six states with such a proportionally small group of discouraged ex-job seekers.

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47. New Hampshire
> Underemployment rate: 6.4%
> June unemployment rate: 2.9% (tied –4th lowest)
> Average wage: $53,559 (15th highest)
> Labor force growth: 0.8% (25th largest increase)

In New Hampshire, 35.7% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, one of the largest shares of any state. A highly educated workforce often coincide with a healthier job market, and only 6.4% of New Hampshire’s labor force are underemployed — well below the 9.5% nationwide underemployment rate.

As is the case with those who are part of the traditional unemployment rate, those who need full-time work but are unable to find it and those who have given up looking for work are often at greater risk of facing serious financial hardship. Only 8.2% of New Hampshire’s population live below the poverty line, the smallest share of any state.

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46. Vermont
> Underemployment rate: 6.8%
> June unemployment rate: 3.2% (tied –10th lowest)
> Average wage: $45,037 (18th lowest)
> Labor force growth: -0.2% (7th largest decline)

Similar to neighboring New Hampshire, Vermont has one of the strongest job markets of any state. Only 6.8% of the state’s labor force are underemployed — well below the comparable 9.5% share nationwide.

Strong employment across the state is partially attributable to economic growth and a shrinking labor force. In the last year, the size of the labor force in the state fell by 0.2% as employment climbed by 0.2%. Economic growth in the Green Mountain State was driven by the education and health care as well as the leisure and hospitality sectors. As was the case across the United States, durable goods manufacturing was a drag on Vermont’s economy.