Special Report

Hardest States to Find Full-Time Work

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5. Connecticut
> Underemployment rate: 9.6%
> May unemployment: 4.5% (10th highest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +4.7% (24th lowest)
> Average annual wage: $66,648 (3rd highest)

Connecticut’s 9.6% underemployment rate is the highest in New England and fifth highest nationwide. Job growth in the state has been modest, with total employment climbing 4.7% in the last half decade, slower than the 7.6% national average employment growth over that time. Along with Kansas and Louisiana, the state was one of only three nationwide with a shrinking economy. GDP fell by 0.2% in Connecticut last year.

Many of those who are able to find a job in Connecticut are well paid. The average annual wage across all workers in the state is $66,648, nearly $11,300 more than the national average.

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4. West Virginia
> Underemployment rate: 10.1%
> May unemployment: 5.4% (2nd highest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: -1.4% (2nd lowest)
> Average annual wage: $43,424 (6th lowest)

West Virginia is one of only four states with a double digit underemployment rate. The state’s weak job market is partially the product of long-term decline in the state. Over the last half decade, total employment fell by 1.4% in West Virginia, the second worst decline in the country. The high underemployment rate likely contributes to the large share of residents dependent on government assistance programs to meet their basic needs. Some 17.9% of West Virginians receive SNAP benefits — formerly known as food stamps — the highest recipiency rate of any state.

Across the state, the nondurable goods manufacturing industry and the government sector were the largest drags on economic growth last year.

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3. Nevada
> Underemployment rate: 10.4%
> May unemployment: 4.8% (4th highest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +13.3% (2nd highest)
> Average annual wage: $48,126 (23rd lowest)

Some 10.4% of workers in Nevada are underemployed, the third highest underemployment rate of any state. Nevada’s economy was hit especially hard by the Great Recession, and despite an overall weak labor market, this year’s underemployment rate represents a marked improvement from recent years. Employment climbed 13.3% in Nevada over the last half decade, outpacing the 7.6% national job growth over that time. Nevada’s underemployment rate from the second quarter of 2010 through the first quarter of 2011 was 23.7%, the highest of any state. The annual rate remained highest in the nation — measuring from the second quarter through the first quarter — for each of the following five years.

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2. New Mexico
> Underemployment rate: 10.5%
> May unemployment: 5.1% (3rd highest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +0.9% (7th lowest)
> Average annual wage: $43,535 (7th lowest)

New Mexico’s 2017 unemployment rate of 6.5% is the second highest in the country and little improved from the 2016 unemployment rate of 6.6%. Due to high unemployment, and the relatively high 3.9% of workers forced to take part-time work, in addition to those workers who have given up looking for a job, New Mexico’s 10.5% underemployment rate is the second highest of any state.

The weak job market has ripple effects in the state that extend to other aspects of the economy. For example, most Americans with health insurance are insured through work. In New Mexico, the high underemployment likely contributes to the state’s higher than average 9.2% uninsured rate.

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1. Alaska
> Underemployment rate: 13.5%
> May unemployment: 7.2% (the highest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: -0.5% (4th lowest)
> Average annual wage: $53,740 (16th highest)

In a break from the national trend, Alaska’s underemployment rate has been on the rise, climbing in each of the last three years. Currently, the state’s 13.5% underemployment rate is by far the highest in the country, exceeding the rate in New Mexico by 3.0 percentage points. Joblessness is largely to blame as the state’s 7.2% unemployment rate is also the highest of any state. Over the last five years, total employment fell by 0.5% in the state, declining by 0.3% in the last year alone. The government sector, as well as nondurable goods manufacturing and construction were the biggest economic drags in the state last year.