Hardest States to Find Full-Time Work

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15. Delaware (tied)
> Underemployment rate: 9.0%
> May unemployment: 4.0% (24th highest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +9.4% (16th highest)
> Average annual wage: $55,822 (12th highest)

In a break with the national trend, underemployment has been on the rise in Delaware. As of the end of the first quarter of 2017, 8.8% of Delaware’s workforce were underemployed, a smaller share than the 9.5% share of American workers at the time. In the year since, underemployment in the state climbed to 9.0%, while nationwide it fell to 8.3%.

Delaware’s modest GDP growth rate of 1.6% last year was slower than the national economic growth rate of 2.1%. The state’s wholesale trade and accomodation and food services sectors were the largest drag on the economy last year.

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14. Michigan (tied)
> Underemployment rate: 9.0%
> May unemployment: 4.6% (8th highest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +9.2% (17th highest)
> Average annual wage: $52,470 (18th highest)

For the two years beginning with the second quarter of 2008 through the first quarter of 2010, Michigan had the highest underemployment rate of any state, peaking at 21.7%. Since Michigan’s post-recession first-quarter high in the beginning of 2010, annual underemployment has declined every year and currently stands at 9.0%, slightly higher than the 8.3% national underemployment rate.

The dramatic improvement is attributable in part to rapid job growth. Over the last five years, employment climbed 9.2% in Michigan, far faster than the five-year employment growth nationwide of 7.6%.

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13. Washington (tied)
> Underemployment rate: 9.0%
> May unemployment: 4.7% (5th highest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +10.3% (10th highest)
> Average annual wage: $62,090 (6th highest)

Washington has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. As of May 2018, 4.7% of the state’s labor force was out of a job, the fifth highest state unemployment rate in the country. Due in part to a high jobless rate, a larger share of workers in the state are underemployed. Some 9.0% of state workers are underemployed to some degree — including those who are unemployed — well above the 8.3% U.S. underemployment rate.

Many of those who are working in the state are well compensated. The average salary among all workers in Washington is $62,090, nearly $7,000 more than the average annual wage of all working Americans.

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12. Mississippi (tied)
> Underemployment rate: 9.1%
> May unemployment: 4.7% (5th highest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +0.3% (5th lowest)
> Average annual wage: $38,789 (the lowest)

In Mississippi, 9.1% of the labor force is underemployed to some degree, well above the 8.3% share of workers nationwide. The high underemployment is largely the result of near flat job growth in the state in recent years. Total employment grew by just 0.3% over the last half decade. For reference, overall employment climbed 7.6% nationwide over the same period.

Many of those who are working in Mississippi are still likely struggling financially. The average annual wage in the state is just $38,789, the lowest of any state and about $16,600 less than the national average. Additionally, more than one in every five Mississippi residents live in poverty, the highest poverty rate of any state.

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11. New Jersey (tied)
> Underemployment rate: 9.1%
> May unemployment: 4.4% (13th highest)
> 5-yr. employment growth: +3.8% (19th lowest)
> Average annual wage: $64,015 (5th highest)

New Jersey’s labor force contracted by 0.2% over the last year. At the same time, employment rose by 0.2%. Partially as a result, the state’s annual unemployment rate fell from 5.0% in 2016 to 4.6% in 2017. Unemployment is one component of the underemployment rate, and over roughly the same period, underemployment in the state fell from 9.7% to 9.1%.

While full-time employment may be harder to come by in New Jersey than in most other states, many of those working in the Garden State are well compensated. The average annual wage is $64,015, or $8,600 more than the average wage among all working Americans.