Special Report

Hardest States to Find Full-Time Work

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45. Nebraska (tied)
> Underemployment rate: 6.1%
> May unemployment: 2.8% (9th lowest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +0.8% (6th lowest)
> Average annual wage: $44,851 (10th lowest)

Nebraska is one of several Midwestern states with a relatively healthy job market. Just 6.1% of workers in the state are underemployed. For reference, 8.3% of American workers are similarly underemployed. Employment in the state remains high despite relatively weak growth in recent years. Total employment slipped 0.3% in Nebraska last year, but this likely had little effect on the state’s unemployment rate as the state’s labor force shrank at a similar rate over the same period. Still, over the last half decade, employment in Nebraska climbed by just 0.8%, well below the 7.6% national growth rate over that time.

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44. Wisconsin 
> Underemployment rate: 6.2%
> May unemployment: 2.8% (9th lowest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +6.1% (22nd highest)
> Average annual wage: $47,239 (21st lowest)

Just 6.2% of the workforce in Wisconsin are unemployed or underemployed, the sixth smallest share among states. As is the case in many states with a strong job market, labor force participation is relatively high in Wisconsin. Some 66.1% of working-age state residents are working or looking for work compared to 60.1% of the working-age U.S. population.

Most Americans get their health insurance through work, and the low underemployment in Wisconsin helps reduce the share of residents without insurance coverage. Just 5.3% of Wisconsin residents lack health insurance, one of the smallest shares of any state and well below the 8.6% national uninsured rate.

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43. New Hampshire (tied)
> Underemployment rate: 6.3%
> May unemployment: 2.7% (4th lowest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +3.9% (20th lowest)
> Average annual wage: $55,133 (14th highest)

New Hampshire is tied with Vermont for the lowest underemployment rate among New England states. Just 6.3% of the state’s labor force are unemployed, discouraged from looking for work, or forced to take a part time or temporary job. The strong job market partially explains the relative lack of serious financial hardship in the state. Just 7.3% of New Hampshire residents live in poverty, the lowest poverty rate of any state in the country. The retail trade sector provides the most jobs in the state, accounting for 14.8% of total employment, followed by the health care and social assistance sector and manufacturing, which employ 14.7% and 10.6% of the state’s labor force, respectively

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42. Vermont (tied)
> Underemployment rate: 6.3%
> May unemployment: 2.8% (9th lowest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: -1.1% (3rd lowest)
> Average annual wage: $46,121 (16th lowest)

Vermont has struggled with some of the weakest job growth in the country in recent years. Total employment fell by 1.1% over the last half decade, even as U.S. employment climbed 7.6% over the same period. The wholesale trade, utilities, and construction industries detracted most from overall GDP growth in the state last year, contributing to slower than average 1.1% economic expansion across the state.

Despite some weak economic indicators, Vermont’s job market remains among the healthiest in the country. Just 6.3% of the state’s labor force is unemployed, underemployed, or discouraged from looking for work, well below the 8.3% national underemployment rate.

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41. South Dakota
> Underemployment rate: 6.4%
> May unemployment: 3.3% (15th lowest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +4.0% (21st lowest)
> Average annual wage: $42,424 (4th lowest)

Some 66.9% of South Dakota’s working-age residents work or are actively looking for work, the third highest labor force participation rate among states and well above the nationwide rate of 60.1%. The accomodation and food service industry is a major employer in the state, providing some 40,600 jobs, or about 10% of total employment. South Dakota is home to several national parks, monuments, and memorials — including Mount Rushmore — as well as Sturgis, a mecca for motorcyclists. The 13.9 million visitors to the state in 2017 spent a total of $3.9 billion.