Special Report

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

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45. Colorado
> Underemployment rate: 6.9%
> June unemployment rate: 2.3% (tied –the lowest)
> Average wage: $54,669 (10th highest)
> Labor force growth: 2.0% (10th largest increase)

Colorado’s unemployment rate is tied with North Dakota’s as the lowest in the country. Just 2.3% of the state’s labor force are looking for work but are unable to find it. When including other groups, such as those who have given up looking for work and those who have been forced into part-time jobs because they could not find full-time work, the state’s underemployment rate climbs to 6.9%. Still, the state’s underemployment rate is lower than the vast majority of states, as well as the 9.5% underemployment rate nationwide. Those with college degrees are more likely to find full-time employment, and Colorado’s adult college attainment rate of 39.2% is second highest among states.

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44. Hawaii
> Underemployment rate: 7.1%
> June unemployment rate: 2.7% (3rd lowest)
> Average wage: $48,184 (23rd highest)
> Labor force growth: 1.6% (14th largest increase)

Just 7.1% of the Hawaii labor force is underemployed, significantly less than the 9.5% national underemployment rate. One factor contributing to Hawaii’s healthy job market is the state’s flourishing leisure and hospitality industry, which contributed more to Hawaii’s GDP growth in 2016 than any other sector. The number of annual visitors to the state hit a record 8.9 million last year, and they spent a record total of $15.6 billion. Some 18.3% of workers in Hawaii are employed in leisure and hospitality, the largest share of any state other than Nevada.

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43. Iowa
> Underemployment rate: 7.1%
> June unemployment rate: 3.2% (tied –10th lowest)
> Average wage: $44,910 (16th lowest)
> Labor force growth: -0.1% (9th largest decline)

In some states, a large share of the labor force gives up looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. In Iowa, however, just 0.1% of the labor force has recently given up looking for jobs, tied with several other states as the lowest share in the country. Iowa has maintained one of the most stable job markets in the country. While the U.S. unemployment rate peaked at 10% due to the recession, Iowa’s jobless rate has not exceeded 6.6% over the past decade.

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42. Arkansas
> Underemployment rate: 7.2%
> June unemployment rate: 3.4% (tied –12th lowest)
> Average wage: $41,571 (5th lowest)
> Labor force growth: 0.8% (25th smallest increase)

Only 7.2% of Arkansas’ workers are unemployed, marginally attached, or working part-time in lieu of full-time work — well below the nationwide 9.5% underemployment rate. The state’s 1.9% job growth over the last year outpaced the 1.7% job growth nationwide. Growth was driven largely by Arkansas’ education and health care and professional and business sectors.

While there are enough jobs, many are not especially high paying. The average wage in Arkansas is less than $42,000 a year, well below what the average wage in the majority of states.

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41. Utah
> Underemployment rate: 7.4%
> June unemployment rate: 3.4% (tied –12th lowest)
> Average wage: $45,249 (19th lowest)
> Labor force growth: 3.1% (2nd largest increase)

Utah has led the nation in job growth over the past five years, at an average rate of 3.4% per year. Even as the labor force increased by 3.1% people in 2016 — the second most of any state when adjusted for population — the number of unemployed workers fell slightly. Like the nation as a whole, GDP growth in the state in 2016 was led by the education and health services and professional and business services sectors.

Utah has also had significant growth in its technology sector, as more startups move to the tech cluster known as the Silicon Slopes in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. A strong economy may have helped boost optimism among job-seekers in the state and has likely kept some unemployed workers from dropping out of the labor force. Just 0.1% of Utah’s labor force has given up on looking for employment in the past four weeks because they felt no jobs were available for them, one of the smallest shares of any state.