The Best And Worst States For Job Seekers

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best worst states job searchBy Debra Auerbach


There have been signs of economic growth this month. Earlier in the month we learned that as of December 2011, the national jobless rate was at 8.5 percent, a rate that's continued to trend down since February 2009.

Yet not all states are created equal when it comes to economic recovery. Some states weathered the recession better than others. And while most states have seen a decline in unemployment post-recession, others have dealt with fluctuating jobless rates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' recent breakdown of regional and state unemployment numbers for December 2011, the most recent figures available, "Twenty-four states reported jobless rates significantly lower than the U.S. figure of 8.5 percent, eight states and the District of Columbia had measurably higher rates, and 18 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation."

In taking a closer look at which states are on the road to recovery and which ones are still hitting speed bumps, we first reviewed each state's unemployment rates as of December 2011. Also examined were trends in joblessness - whether it's been on the decline and the rate in which it's declining - and other factors such as foreclosures and household income. Here's a look at some of the best and worst states for job seekers.


Best state unemployment rates*

1. North Dakota

Why: During the recession, North Dakota's unemployment rate peaked at 4.3 percent in 2009, a rate that was still significantly lower than the national average. The rate hasn't gone above 4 percent since April 2010.

Unemployment rate: 3.3 percent

2. Nebraska

Why: Nebraska was the state with the second lowest unemployment rate in December 2011, at 4.1 percent. It also experienced statistically significant employment changes from December 2010 to December 2011, with a job gain of 13,100.

Unemployment rate: 4.1 percent

3. South Dakota

Why: South Dakota had one of the lowest pre-recession unemployment rates in the country - just 2.8 percent in December 2007. Its current jobless rate is still well under the national average. In addition, it saw a statistically significant employment change from November to December 2011, with a job gain of 4,600.

Unemployment rate: 4.2 percent

4. New Hampshire

Why: New Hampshire's unemployment rate is 3.4 percent lower than the national average. What's more, according to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau, New Hampshire has the highest median household income in the U.S., at $66,303**.

Unemployment rate: 5.1 percent

5. Vermont

Why: Vermont's December 2011 unemployment rate was 5.1 percent, and it has experienced a statistically significant year-over-year unemployment rate change of -0.7 percent. It also ranks in the top 15 in median household income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Unemployment rate: 5.1 percent

6. Iowa

Why: Iowa's unemployment rate of 5.6 percent is at its lowest level since June 2009. According to the state, Iowa has added 13,300 total jobs compared to a year ago.

Unemployment rate: 5.6 percent

7. Minnesota

Why: This Midwest state has experienced statistically significant year-over-year employment changes from December 2010 to December 2011, with a job gain of 26,300. Its current unemployment rate is the lowest it's been since September 2008.

Unemployment rate: 5.7 percent

8. Wyoming

Why: After hitting its unemployment rate peak at 7.7 percent in late 2009, the rate has continued to trend downward and is currently 2.7 percent lower than the national average. Additionally, Wyoming has the lowest unemployment rate in the Western region.

Unemployment rate: 5.8 percent

9. Utah

Why: Utah saw statistically significant employment changes from December 2010 to December 2011, with a job gain of 36,000.

Unemployment rate: 6 percent

10. Oklahoma

Why: Although Oklahoma's unemployment rate has hovered at 6.1 percent since October 2011, it did have a statistically significant employment change year-over-year from December 2010 to December 2011, with a job gain of 41,600.

Unemployment rate: 6.1 percent


Worst state unemployment rates

1. Nevada

Why: Nevada has the worst unemployment rate in the country, at 12.6 percent. It also saw a statistically significant employment change of -9,800 from November to December 2011. To rub salt in the wound, Nevada topped RealtyTrac's list of state foreclosure rates in 2010.

Unemployment rate: 12.6 percent

2. California

Why: While California's unemployment rate did decrease by 0.2 percent from November to December 2011, its rate of 11.1 percent is still 2.6 percentage points higher than the national rate. According to RealtyTrac, California's December 2011 foreclosure rate was one of the highest in the nation.

Unemployment rate: 11.1 percent

3. Rhode Island

Why: Rhode Island has the worst unemployment rate in New England. It's also one of the three states where unemployment increased in December.

Unemployment rate: 10.8 percent

4. Mississippi

Why: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Mississippi has the lowest median household income, at $36,850. Its unemployment rate also experienced an increase from a year prior.

Unemployment rate: 10.4 percent

5. District of Columbia

Why: While the District of Columbia isn't a state, it's still worth including on the list given its high unemployment rate. Its unemployment rate actually increased from a year earlier, going from 9.6 percent in December 2010 to 10.4 percent in December 2011.

Unemployment rate: 10.4 percent

6. North Carolina

Why: North Carolina has the highest unemployment rate in the South Atlantic, excluding the District of Columbia. Its December 2011 unemployment rate of 9.9 percent is 1.4 percent above the U.S. average.

Unemployment rate: 9.9 percent

7. Florida

Why: While Florida's unemployment rate is on the decline, it's still the seventh highest unemployment rate in the country. Plus, it had one of the highest 2010 foreclosure rates, according to RealtyTrac.

Unemployment rate: 9.9 percent

8. Illinois

Why: According to Business Insider, Illinois is one of the top 10 states with the most foreclosures in 2010, with 151,304 foreclosures last year.

Unemployment rate: 9.8 percent

9. Georgia

Why: While the state's unemployment rate was down for the third consecutive month, the state labor department disclosed that metro Atlanta's unemployment rate rose to 9.4 percent in December from 9.2 percent in November. Georgia also experienced the third-largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment of -0.4 percent.

Unemployment rate: 9.7 percent

10. South Carolina

Why: South Carolina's median household income of $42,059 is the seventh lowest in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Its unemployment rate hasn't been below 9 percent in three years.

Unemployment rate: 9.5 percent


*Unless otherwise noted, data was pulled from the BLS.

**Median household income (In 2010 Inflation-adjusted dollars) by state ranked from highest to lowest Using three-year average: 2008-2010.


Next:The 'Average' Worker Is Dead



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