Special Report

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

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30. Virginia
> Underemployment rate: 8.6%
> June unemployment rate: 3.7% (tied –16th lowest)
> Average wage: $54,855 (9th highest)
> Labor force growth: 0.7% (21st smallest increase)

Like the U.S. as a whole, Virginia’s economy has largely recovered from the Great Recession.
The state’s current underemployment rate of 8.6% is far less than its 11.9% rate five years ago. One factor likely helping Virginia’s recovery from the recession may be the state’s highly educated labor force. An estimated 37.0% of adults in Virginia have a bachelor’s degree, the sixth largest share nationwide.

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29. Delaware
> Underemployment rate: 8.8%
> June unemployment rate: 4.7% (tied — 11th highest)
> Average wage: $53,780 (13th highest)
> Labor force growth: 1.2% (18th largest increase)

At 4.7%, Delaware’s unemployment rate is above the 4.4% nationwide rate. Despite the higher unemployment rate, a slightly smaller than typical share of the state labor force are underemployed. Some 8.8% of workers in the state are working part-time when they would rather work full-time, are discouraged from finding work, or are unemployed — a slightly smaller share than the 9.5% U.S. underemployment rate.

Delaware’s economy expanded by 0.3% in 2016, much slower than the 1.5% GDP growth rate nationwide. At 1.7%, employment growth in Delaware matched the U.S. employment growth rate.

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28. Oklahoma
> Underemployment rate: 8.8%
> June unemployment rate: 4.3% (tied — 20th highest)
> Average wage: $43,890 (11th lowest)
> Labor force growth: -0.3% (5th largest decline)

Both total employment and the labor force — which includes both active workers and those who are unemployed — fell in Oklahoma in 2016. The total labor force declined by 0.3%, while total employment fell by 0.8% — one of the steepest job declines of any state. The state’s GDP unsurprisingly also took a hit in 2016, contracting by 2.3% even as nationwide GDP expanded 1.5%.

Despite declines in a range of economic measures, only 8.8% of Oklahoma’s labor force is underemployed, a smaller share than the 9.5% of American workers.

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27. Texas
> Underemployment rate: 9.0%
> June unemployment rate: 4.6% (tied — 15th highest)
> Average wage: $54,302 (11th highest)
> Labor force growth: 1.8% (11th largest increase)

In Texas, 9.0% of the labor force is underemployed, less than the 9.5% national rate. One factor likely contributing to the state’s slightly better than average job market is steady employment growth. From 2011 to 2016, the number of jobs in Texas grew at an average of 2.5% a year, the seventh fastest job growth of any state. Like the United States as a whole, GDP growth in Texas in 2016 was led by the education and health services sector.

In recent years, falling oil prices have been a drag on the Texas economy. Roughly one-third of the nation’s mining and logging workers — which includes the oil extraction and refining industry — are employed in Texas. However, the sector detracted more from the state’s 2016 GDP growth than any other. The state’s underemployment rate rose from 8.3% a year ago to 9.0% today, one of the largest increases of any state.

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26. South Carolina
> Underemployment rate: 9.1%
> June unemployment rate: 4.0% (24th lowest)
> Average wage: $42,879 (9th lowest)
> Labor force growth: 1.2% (17th largest increase)

Some 9.1% of South Carolina’s labor force is either unemployed, marginally attached to the workforce, or have settled for working part-time jobs, lower than the 9.5% national rate. Over the past year, labor underutilization improved more in South Carolina than in any other state, falling 2.1 percentage points from 11.2% one year ago. It is currently lower than its pre-recessionary rate of 10.8% in 2006. The improvement coincides with strong economic growth in the state. South Carolina’s GDP increased 2.1% in 2016, far more than the 1.5% national rate. Growth was led by the state’s leisure and hospitality, construction, and education and health services sectors.