Special Report

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

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15. Washington
> Underemployment rate: 10.0%
> June unemployment rate: 4.5% (tied — 18th highest)
> Average wage: $59,026 (6th highest)
> Labor force growth: 2.8% (4th largest increase)

While Washington state’s 4.5% unemployment rate is nearly in line with the 4.4% national rate, the state’s 10.0% underemployment rate is substantially higher than the 9.5% national figure. The discrepancy is partially due to the 1.2% of the labor force that recently gave up looking for full-time employment, one of the larger shares of any state.

Despite Washington’s high labor underutilization, the state has experienced strong economic growth in recent years. Washington’s GDP grew 3.7% in 2016, the most of any state. Employment in the state also increased at a fast pace, clocking an average annual growth rate of 2.5% between 2011 and 2016, the ninth most of any state.

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14. Michigan
> Underemployment rate: 10.0%
> June unemployment rate: 3.8% (tied –20th lowest)
> Average wage: $50,944 (18th highest)
> Labor force growth: 1.7% (13th largest increase)

Some 10.0% of Michigan’s labor force are underemployed, down from 11.2% one year ago. The decrease in labor underutilization is due to drops in both the unemployment rate and the share of marginally attached workers. The state’s job market has largely recovered from the recession, and its underemployment rate is far lower than its pre-recessionary level of 12.2% in 2006.

The improvement is likely due to Michigan’s above average economic growth in recent years. The state’s GDP rose 1.8% in 2016, faster than the 1.5% national rate. Like the country as a whole, growth in Michigan was led by the education and health services, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality sectors.

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13. Oregon
> Underemployment rate: 10.0%
> June unemployment rate: 3.7% (tied –16th lowest)
> Average wage: $49,463 (20th highest)
> Labor force growth: 3.9% (the largest increase)

In Oregon, 10.0% of the labor force are either unemployed, marginally attached to the workforce, or have settled for a part-time job after failing to find full-time employment. While labor underutilization is high in Oregon, the current underemployment rate is a slight improvement from the 11.2% rate one year ago. The increase in labor utilization may be partially due to the rapid economic growth throughout the state. In 2016, Oregon’s GDP rose 3.3%, the second fastest growth among states. Oregon has also had nation-leading job growth in recent years. The number of employed workers in Oregon increased 4.7% in 2016, more than in any other state and more than double the 1.7% national rate.

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12. Pennsylvania
> Underemployment rate: 10.1%
> June unemployment rate: 5.0% (tied — 6th highest)
> Average wage: $52,462 (16th highest)
> Labor force growth: 0.7% (23rd smallest increase)

Some 10.1% of the Pennsylvania labor force is currently unemployed or underemployed, higher than the 9.5% national rate. Labor underutilization in the state is only slightly improved from one year ago, when 10.7% of the workforce was unemployed or underemployed. Labor underutilization has also yet to improve from the pre-recessionary level of 8.0% in 2006. Pennsylvania’s current unemployment rate of 5.0% is tied as sixth highest in the country. The slow recovery of the Pennsylvania job market is likely due to sluggish economic and population growth in the state. Pennsylvania’s GDP grew just 1.1% in 2016, less than the 1.5% national rate. Between 2011 and 2016, employment in Pennsylvania grew at an average rate of just 0.7% a year, the seventh slowest of any state.

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11. Illinois
> Underemployment rate: 10.3%
> June unemployment rate: 4.7% (tied — 11th highest)
> Average wage: $56,453 (8th highest)
> Labor force growth: 0.5% (20th smallest increase)

Illinois is one of many Midwestern states where sluggish post-economic growth is hurting labor utilization and preventing the job market to return to its pre-recessionary status. Some 10.3% of the Illinois workforce is currently unemployed or underemployed, a slight improvement from the 11.0% share one year ago yet far higher than the pre-recessionary levels of 8.1% in 2006 and 7.8% in 2007. The state’s GDP rose just 0.9% in 2016, slightly more than half the 1.5% national rate. While the wholesale trade sector contributed to GDP growth nationwide, the sector detracted from economic growth in Illinois. An estimated 5.0% of workers in Illinois are employed in wholesale trade, the fourth largest share of any state.