The wake of the recession has led to great swaths of people seeking out work wherever they can find it. That has included those who have been willing to pick up and uproot their families in order to find sustenance, as well as recent graduates looking for work for the first time. As has been widely discussed, many of the jobs that have been recovered since the financial crisis and global recession hit the hardest in 2008 and 2009 are not the same that were lost. Wages are stagnant, and many have had to settle for low-skill or part-time work to get back into the workforce.
Things are looking up, however. Entrepreneurs across the country are jumping into the fray, creating businesses from new ideas and concepts, and adding jobs to the mix while they’re at it. Some of the world’s top companies have also regained their footing and are in hiring mode, looking to ramp up production and revenues as the economy returns to full steam. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every corner of the U.S. is teeming with opportunity, but there are certain places that are emerging as employment hot spots.
Here, we’re taking a look at the states that provide the absolute best opportunities for job seekers across the country. These states have been ranked as the top places for job seekers by taking a variety of factors into account, most notably unemployment rates, prevalence of large companies and entrepreneurs, as well as expected economic changes, like recent discoveries of oil or natural gas, for example.
There are also things that knocked some areas out of the top ten, An example would be Washington, D.C., which is seeing employment opportunities abound. However, it’s also an incredibly expensive place to live, which can make finding a job even more difficult.
Without further ado, here are the top ten states for jobseekers.
California is suffering from a very high unemployment rate, 7.4 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it is also the most complex economy in the country. On its own the state would make up one of the largest economies in the entire world, and due to an incredibly diverse and unique demographic makeup, there are a lot of nuances that allow things to keep flowing. Despite its high unemployment rate, the fact that there is simply so much going on keeps it in the top ten. Several big cities, along with dozens and dozens of huge companies give job seekers plenty of chances to get ahead. And there’s no better place to be than Silicon Valley for tech and entrepreneurs.
According to the Motley Fool, Idaho saw an uptick this year of 2.7 percent in employment levels. Not only that, but wages are also up 1.9 percent. There are a number of industries gaining ground in the land famous for potatoes and Napoleon Dynamite, and healthcare is near the top. There are 81 percent more medical assistants in the state than there were a decade ago, and social service work has grown by 77 percent. Idaho has a low 4.8 percent unemployment rate, and the Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that 2014 will see job prospects grow by 2.05 percent.
Hot and dry, Arizona is a virtual land of opportunity for job prospectors. The state does have a relatively high unemployment rate of 7 percent, which sets it back a bit. But there are a number of companies that call the cities of Phoenix and Tucson home, along with major universities. Pew Charitable Trusts also sees Arizona as one of the states primed to see the most growth in job numbers, with an estimated 3.08 percent bump by the end of the year. The energy industry has a lot of potential in Arizona, making it a great place for job seekers with tech or engineering backgrounds.
7. South Dakota
Hopping on the success train like its northerly neighbor, South Dakota has done a great job of getting its citizens to work. Despite being home to some of the most impoverished counties in the entire country, many areas of the state — including Rapid City and Sioux Falls — are seeing their economies pick up. The unemployment rate now stands at 3.7 percent, one of the best in the country. The state’s business environment is also friendly to big corporations, who have begun moving jobs in to take advantage of better tax rates and other perks.
Washington is home to a number of very big companies, including tech giants like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) which employ huge numbers of people. There are also large numbers of engineers and machinists working for the aerospace industry, particularly Boeing (NYSE:BA), and a big military presence as well. Washington’s unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent, and is on the path to improvement. The Seattle area is also a hotbed for entrepreneurs and startup activity, giving plenty of young, tech-minded individuals opportunities to get involved.
Utah can proudly boast one of the best unemployment rates in the entire nation, at a minuscule 3.6 percent. The Motley Fool also heaped on the praise, and says that the state has seen an employment growth rate of 2.8 percent over the past year. Pew Charitable Trusts also expects 2014 to see sustained growth in employment numbers of just under two percent. One knock against Utah is that the average wages are extremely low, around 15 percent below the national average. Still, for job seekers, there are plenty of opportunities to be taken advantage of.
One big area that could be a potential boon for job seekers is in the blossoming legal marijuana industry. Despite being in its infancy, the room for growth at this point is truly astronomical, and there should be opportunities for people will all kinds of backgrounds. The state also saw job prospects grow by 2.9 percent last year, to drop the unemployment rate to a fair 5.3 percent. Job growth should continue through the year, with Pew Charitable Trusts anticipating growth of 2.67 percent. Colorado has a decent cost of living, and higher than average wage levels as well.
The Great Plains might be the ideal place for job seekers to flock to, specifically the great state of Nebraska. Sharing the home to Warren Buffett, corn, and a low unemployment rate of 3.6 percent, Nebraskans are definitely hard at work. The state’s lone big city, Omaha, is home to big companies like ConAgra (NYSE:CAG) and Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP), and the cost of living is very low, especially compared to many other regions around the country. It may not be the first place many young people fresh out of college are thinking of moving to, but Nebraska does have ample opportunities to get to work.
Like California, Texas is home to several huge cities, each housing a number of large companies. Industries dominating in growth include energy — both oil and natural gas production are increasing — and the tech sectors. Austin is home to a vibrant startup scene, and Dallas and Houston are also hotbeds of entrepreneurship. Average wages have increased 2.4 percent over the past year, and employment has seen a jump of 2.7 percent as well.
1. North Dakota
The undisputed champion in terms of employment figures over the past few years has been North Dakota. Fueled by an energy industry that is changing the landscape — both figuratively and literally — people have flocked to cities like Williston to find good, well-paying jobs. The state’s unemployment rate is the best in the country at 2.8 percent. Jobs to support the influx of workers to the energy industry are also on the up and up, and include positions in healthcare, retail and transportation. Wages are growing at a blistering pace, and the state’s cost of living is downright thrifty compared to many other states. For the best job prospects in the nation, North Dakota is the place to go.