Special Report

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

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20. New Jersey
> Underemployment rate: 9.7%
> June unemployment rate: 4.1% (tied — 24th highest)
> Average wage: $62,772 (5th highest)
> Labor force growth: -0.1% (8th largest decline)

New Jersey is one of the only states where labor underutilization has increased over the past year. Currently, 9.7% of the state’s labor force are underemployed, up from 9.5% one year ago. The state’s underemployment rate rose above the national figure, which fell from 10.1% to 9.5% over the same period.

Job growth in New Jersey has largely trailed the nation since the recession. The number of employed workers in the state rose at an average annual rate of 1.1% from 2011 to 2016, slower than the 1.9% national pace. Despite the sluggish growth, New Jersey’s 4.1% unemployment rate is currently at a 16-year low.

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19. Wyoming
> Underemployment rate: 9.7%
> June unemployment rate: 3.9% (tied –22nd lowest)
> Average wage: $44,974 (17th lowest)
> Labor force growth: -0.9% (2nd largest decline)

Some 9.7% of Wyoming’s labor force are currently underemployed, a substantial increase from the 8.5% share one year ago. This increase in underemployment coincides with a 2% decline in total employment, the largest decline of any state. Job loss in Wyoming is likely due to the state’s shrinking mining sector. Some 6.7% of workers in the state are employed in mining and logging, the largest share in the country. As the price of oil fell in 2014 and has remained low, many states with large mining and logging sectors have experienced sluggish economic growth and persistent unemployment.

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18. Georgia
> Underemployment rate: 9.8%
> June unemployment rate: 4.8% (10th highest)
> Average wage: $50,698 (19th highest)
> Labor force growth: 2.8% (3rd largest increase)

The share of the Georgia labor force underemployed is currently 9.8%, a considerable improvement from 11.2% one year ago. Despite the decrease in labor underutilization, the state’s underemployment rate remains higher than the 9.5% national rate.

The improvement is largely due to the state’s strong post-recession job growth. The number of employed workers in the state rose at an average annual rate of 2.4% between 2011 and 2016, faster than the 1.9% national rate. In 2016 alone, employment in Georgia increased by 3.4%, more than in any state other than Oregon. Like much of the Southeast, Georgia’s economic growth is likely due in part to the massive wave of inbound migration and overall population growth.

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17. Kentucky
> Underemployment rate: 9.8%
> June unemployment rate: 5.1% (tied — 4th highest)
> Average wage: $44,089 (12th lowest)
> Labor force growth: 1.3% (15th largest increase)

Some 9.8% of Kentucky’s labor force is underemployed, a small decline from the 10.5% share one year ago. While the decrease in labor underutilization was due to a decline in the state’s jobless rate, the BLS estimates that 5.1% of workers remain unemployed, tied with Arizona as the fourth highest jobless rate in the country.

Employment in the state increased at an average annual rate of 1.4% between 2011 and 2016, slightly less than the 1.9% national rate. One factor slowing economic growth in Kentucky may be related to educational attainment in the state’s workforce. Just 23.3% of state adults have a bachelor’s degree, a considerably smaller share compared to the 30.6% national rate.

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16. Alabama
> Underemployment rate: 9.9%
> June unemployment rate: 4.6% (tied — 15th highest)
> Average wage: $44,824 (15th lowest)
> Labor force growth: 0.8% (24th smallest increase)

Job growth in Alabama has been relatively slow since the recession. Employment in the state grew at an average rate of 1.1% a year between 2011 and 2016, slower than the 1.9% national rate. While the share of the labor force that is underemployed fell from 10.9% to 9.9% over the past year, it remains higher than the 9.5% U.S. share.

Jobless individuals comprise the largest share of the state’s underemployed residents. Alabama’s 6.0% 2016 unemployment rate is the fourth highest of any state.