Special Report

Hardest States to Find Full-Time Work

Detailed Findings

In addition to the unemployed, the underemployment rate includes those who have involuntarily taken a part-time job and those who have become too discouraged to continue looking for work, or workers are otherwise marginally attached to the labor force.

A state’s underemployment rate can have ripple effects throughout the economy. For example, a high underemployment rate may lead to a larger than typical share of the population struggling financially. Indeed, states with healthier job markets tend to also have low poverty rates. Each of the 10 states with the lowest underemployment rates also have poverty rates below the 14.0% national rate.

Meanwhile, in half of the 10 states with the highest underemployment rates, poverty is more common than it is nationwide.

While health insurance coverage rates are also subject to a range of other public policy factors, they also appear to be closely tied to a state’s job market. Most Americans with health insurance are insured through their job or the job of a family member. Only one of the 10 states with the lowest underemployment rates has a larger uninsured rate than the U.S. as a whole compared to five of the 10 states with worst underemployment rates.

In the states with the best job markets, residents are more likely to participate in the labor force. Nationwide, 60.1% of the working-age population participated in the labor force in 2017. In seven of the 10 states with the highest underemployment rates, the labor force participation rate is lower than it is nationwide. In stark contrast, labor force participation exceeds the national rate in each of the 10 states with the lowest underemployment rates.

Not surprisingly, underemployment figures track closely with unemployment figures. States with low unemployment generally have lower than average underemployment, and vice-versa. Still, the underemployment rate is almost always roughly double the state’s unemployment rate.


To determine the hardest states to find full-time work, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed average underemployment rates for the 12 months through the first quarter of this year as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The underemployment rate is the total number of unemployed job seekers, discouraged and other marginally attached workers, and people settling for part-time jobs as a share of the labor force. We also considered the official unemployment rate as of May 2018. Also from the BLS, we reviewed average annual wages, employment, employment growths, and the size of the labor force from 2016 through 2017. Socioeconomic indicators, including poverty and educational attainment rates came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. GDP growth and contribution to GDP growth by industry came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and is for the period 2016 to 2017.