Special Report

Hardest States to Find Full-Time Work

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40. Utah
> Underemployment rate: 6.5%
> May unemployment: 3.0% (11th lowest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +16.5% (the highest)
> Average annual wage: $46,572 (20th lowest)

Utah’s economy outperformed that of nearly every other state by several measures in recent years. Employment grew by 16.5% in the last half decade, the largest five-year improvement of all states and more than double the U.S. job growth of 7.6% over that time. Additionally, Utah’s economy expanded by 3.1% last year, outpacing the 2.1% U.S. GDP growth.

Due in part to rapid growth, just 6.5% of workers in Utah are unemployed or underemployed, well below the 8.3% of unemployed or underemployed workers nationwide. Underemployment remains low in the state despite rapidly climbing demand for jobs. Utah’s labor force grew by 3.4% last year, the largest increase of any state.

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39. Kansas
> Underemployment rate: 6.7%
> May unemployment: 3.4% (16th lowest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +1.9% (8th lowest)
> Average annual wage: $45,117 (11th lowest)

Kansas’s 3.9% annual unemployment rate is half a percentage point below the comparable 2017 U.S. unemployment rate of 4.4%. However, including those who are forced to take part-time work due to a lack of job availability and those discouraged from looking for work or otherwise marginally attached, the state’s job market looks even better than that of the U.S. as a whole. Just 6.7% of Kansas’s labor force is underemployed compared to 8.3% of the U.S. labor force.

The state’s health care and social assistance, manufacturing, and retail trade sectors provide the most jobs, accounting for 14.8%, 11.8%, and 10.8% of total employment, respectively.

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38. Idaho (tied)
> Underemployment rate: 6.8%
> May unemployment: 2.9% (10th lowest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +11.8% (6th highest)
> Average annual wage: $41,330 (2nd lowest)

Idaho has one of the fastest growing economies in the United States. The state’s 2.7% GDP growth last year topped that of all but six other states as well as the overall 2.1% growth nationwide. Both the durable and nondurable goods manufacturing sectors drove economic expansion in the state and also helped fuel job growth. Overall employment climbed 2.7% last year, more than double the U.S. job growth rate of 1.3% over that time.

Due in part to strong employment growth, just 6.8% of the Idaho’s labor force is unemployed, underemployed, or marginally attached, compared to 8.3% of the U.S. labor force.

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37. Indiana (tied)
> Underemployment rate: 6.8%
> May unemployment: 3.2% (14th lowest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +9.5% (14th highest)
> Average annual wage: $46,190 (17th lowest)

Indiana’s underemployment rate reached a post-recession peak of 18.1% at the end of the first quarter of 2010, well above the U.S. rate of 16.7% at the time. Since then, the state’s job market has improved considerably. Just 6.8% of workers are now underemployed, a smaller share than the comparable 8.3% of workers nationwide.

Indiana’s economy is heavily dependent on the manufacturing sector. The state is home to a number of manufacturing operations, including a Toyota plant in Princeton and a Cummins Inc. automotive parts plant in Columbus. Manufacturing employs more people than any other industry in the state, at about 17.6% of the workforce, and the industry drove Indiana’s GDP growth last year.

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36. Missouri
> Underemployment rate: 7.1%
> May unemployment: 3.6% (19th lowest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +4.3% (22nd lowest)
> Average annual wage: $47,354 (22nd lowest)

Missouri’s annual unemployment rate fell from 4.4% in 2016 to 4.1% in 2017. The decline in the state’s unemployment rate is not due to job creation but rather a lower labor force participation. Overall employment in the state fell by 0.7% last year as the state’s labor force shrank by 0.9%.

Still, Missouri’s job market is faring better than most. Just 7.1% of Missouri’s workforce are underemployed to some degree, a smaller share than the 8.3% of American workers nationwide. The state’s health care and social assistance, retail trade, and manufacturing sectors provide the most jobs, accounting for 16.6%, 11.3%, and 9.6% of total employment, respectively.