10 States With the Fastest Job Growth (and 10 With the Worst)

Photo (cc) by Dita Margarita

Finally, hiring has been picking up. Unemployment was 6.6 percent in January. Even though jobs recovery has been modest, it’s been a long hard climb since October 2009, in the darkest days of the Great Recession, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 10 percent unemployment.

The falling unemployment rate doesn’t mean everyone’s back to work. Not by a long shot. The Washington Post reported that just 74,000 new jobs were added in December — the fewest since 2011 — while 347,000 people stopped looking for work.

While 113,000 jobs were added in January, the BLS says, “Both the number of unemployed persons, at 10.2 million, and the unemployment rate, at 6.6 percent, changed little in January.”

Progress for job seekers

But if you are unemployed –– or underemployed –– you already know this is not yet the recovery we’ve hoped for. You probably remember the boom years of 2006 and 2007, when unemployment was between 4.4 percent and 5 percent.

These days, however, progress is where you can find it. And there is progress. Manpower Group, the temp company, reports steady improvement in hiring since 2009. Seventeen percent of about 18,000 employers surveyed recently told Manpower that they’ll expand their staffs before April. (Seven percent expected to shrink staff, 73 percent to stay even, and 3 percent were undecided.)

10 states with the best jobs outlook

So, where are the jobs? Steven Cochrane, chief of Moody’s Analytics’ economic research team, told us in a recent interview which 10 states he expects to have the fastest jobs growth and which will be the 10 worst states for hiring. Moody’s analysts use data on payroll jobs, population growth, industry output, residential real estate and residents’ income and credit quality to forecast growth.

1. North Dakota

North Dakota’s red-hot oil economy has cooled a little, Cochrane says. But drilling, and industries that serve it — including refineries, rail transport, trucking, pipelines and housing construction — are still hiring.

State government is hiring, too, especially in education and infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and buildings.

2. Arizona

Arizona’s diverse economy is set to expand hiring in areas like technology, aerospace and related industries, the mortgage industry (including mortgage origination, call centers and regional headquarters), real estate and home construction industries.

“States hit very, very hard by housing boom and bust (like Arizona, Nevada, Florida and California) are now getting better,” Cochrane says.

3. Texas

“The recession in Texas was brief and shallow,” says Cochrane. “What that meant was household balance sheets were in better shape, there were fewer underwater homes, household wealth held steadier and consumer spending didn’t take as deep a dive.” State spending and hiring have been stable, too.

Texas will be adding jobs in oil and natural gas and related industries like transportation, refineries and the plastics plants located along the Gulf Coast, Moody’s says. More jobs also are expected in aerospace, high tech and the military. These industries mostly need skilled workers, Cochrane says. But the state’s economic strength should generate some unskilled construction jobs, too.

4. Colorado

Energy is a big employer in Colorado, which services industry and commerce throughout the West. Cochrane expects more jobs in the natural gas industry, particularly in the fields of engineering, business, accounting and technology.

Denver is a transportation hub for the Mountain West, so the railroads and airlines will be looking for skilled workers like pilots and engineers, as well as less-skilled workers like flight attendants and service employees.

5. Florida

The important travel and tourism industries are picking up as Florida’s economy recovers. “These are not high-paying jobs, but they are jobs,” Cochrane says. He expects jobs to be added in the corporate back-office operations, call centers and client service centers in Jacksonville and Tampa.

Florida’s housing market is growing again, at least at the upper end, and that will produce jobs in real estate and mortgage lending. Moody’s experts also expect the greater Miami region to add jobs in international trade, shipping and banking.

6. Georgia

Georgia is just now emerging from its deep recession. “I expect a fair amount of pent-up demand for business services,” Cochrane says. Atlanta, the business and transportation hub of the Southeast, should start growing in all kinds of ways, generating jobs for skilled workers and unskilled service workers.

7. South Carolina

In South Carolina, new jobs will show up in manufacturing, particularly in the automobile and auto-parts industries. These higher-paying jobs will go to workers who are skilled, or at least who are ready to be trained, Cochrane says. Jobs will grow, too, in the state’s important carpet industry and in housing, he adds.

8. Oregon

Cochrane expects this trendy Northwest state to add jobs in many areas, from health care and technology to education, manufacturing and at the seaport. Oregon’s vaunted lifestyle attracts corporate headquarters and business centers, which also should add staff.

9. Idaho

Forest products, once the center of the Northwest’s economy, play a smaller role, but now the sector is expected to hire in Idaho, which exports forest products to Asia. Moody’s forecasts more technology jobs in Boise, a tech center where Micron Technology is headquartered.

Idaho’s wild outdoors means new jobs in travel and tourism. “Anywhere that has a travel and tourism base should be growing next year as consumer spending picks up and people get up and travel,” Cochrane says.

10. Utah

Utah is expected to add jobs in technology, data warehousing, construction and tourism. Utah workers are young and highly educated, leading many industries to locate their headquarters and service centers in Salt Lake City and Provo.

Also, because many Utah workers have completed Mormon missions abroad, they possess foreign language skills attractive to banks and customer-support centers, Cochrane says.

The 10 worst

If you’re ready to pick up roots in search of a new job, keep in mind that not all states have rising economies. Moody’s Analytics forecasts the worst job growth in the following nine states and the District of Columbia. Starting with the worst (Washington, D.C.), the bottom 10 are:

  1. The District of Columbia
  2. Illinois
  3. Maine
  4. Vermont
  5. New York
  6. Alaska
  7. Massachusetts
  8. Tennessee
  9. New Hampshire
  10. New Mexico

Why they’re worst

Hiring is growing slowest in the nation’s capital. Remember the government shutdown last fall? That fight was all about shrinking government. So, don’t count on the federal government for your next job.

The Northeastern states – from New York to Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire – are home to much of the nation’s banking industry. Banks are holding off hiring until they know what new federal banking legislation is going to cost them, Cochrane says.

You may be surprised to see Alaska on this list, but oil, Alaska’s big ace in the hole, isn’t pumping out jobs as it used to. Alaska oil is more expensive to extract than, say, North Dakota’s, and it’s expensive to ship. Also, “Alaska depends a lot on the federal government,” Cochrane says. And, as you know, shrinking government means shrinking job prospects.

Lackluster economies

Cochrane says he doesn’t know why hiring is slow in all of the states on the bottom of the list. But some, like New Mexico and Tennessee, suffer from lackluster economies. Federal Express and UPS have a big presence in Tennessee, but those companies already have roared back so massive new hires aren’t expected, Cochrane says.

Would you move to another state for a good job? Tell us about your job search in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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