Toughest States in the U.S. to Get Full-Time Work

employment lawIn the course of recovering from our recent recession, economists have boasted that not only is the unemployment rate down, but levels of “under-employment”— an important indicator of the job market’s strength — has steadily dropped as well.

For example, in 2012, nearly 15% of all working-age Americans were either unemployed, grew too discouraged to keep looking, or worked less than they wanted to. Over the course of the 12 months ending in the middle of 2013, that figure fallen by several points. Yet in many states, underemployment remains at a troublingly high rate. Here are the states where job-seekers have the most trouble finding full-time work.

10. New Jersey
> Underemployment rate: 15.7% (tied-8th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.1% (tied-6th highest)

9. Arizona
> Underemployment rate: 15.7% (tied-8th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.1% (tied-15th highest)

8. Washington
> Underemployment rate: 15.7% (tied-8th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.5% (tied-22nd highest)
7. Mississippi
> Underemployment rate: 15.8%
> Unemployment rate: 9.3% (4th highest)
6. Rhode Island
> Underemployment rate: 15.9%
> Unemployment rate: 9.5% (tied-3rd highest)

5. Illinois
> Underemployment rate: 16.1% (tied-4th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.0% (7th highest)
4. Michigan
> Underemployment rate: 16.1% (tied-4th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.9% (8th highest)
3. Oregon
> Underemployment rate: 16.9%
> Unemployment rate: 8.7% (10th highest)
2. California
> Underemployment rate: 18.3%
> Unemployment rate: 9.5% (tied-3rd highest)

1. Nevada
> Underemployment rate: 19.0%
> Unemployment rate: 10.4% (the highest)

Martin Kohli, chief economist of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, explained these figures to the organization 24/7 Wall St., noting that “In these states, the statistics are showing some positive and some negative developments.” States with high levels of underemployment such as Mississippi and New Jersey, actually see rates of underemployed going up from 2012 to 2013, even while the national rate dropped.

In states with previously high rates of unemployment and underemployment, like California, Nevada, and Michigan, the numbers have decreased, and are indications of job market growth. Kohli explains that these states have experienced “increases in their labor forces, as well as significant over the year increases in payroll jobs, so the changes in the [underemployment] rates are additional confirmation of improvements in their labor markets.”

Employment Disputes

Other regions with high underemployment have not benefited in the same way from 2012’s strong job growth. States marked by high underemployment such as Arizona, California and Washington State boasted some of the fastest job growth in the U.S. last year, but have yet to recover the massive number of jobs lost over the course of the recession. Arizona, for instance, had 2.5 million jobs occupied in July 2013. Yet near the end of 2007, there were almost 2.7 million (non-agricultural) jobs in the state. California’s job numbers increased by 3.3% in 2012, making it’s labor market the 3rd fastest growing in the U.S; but the 14.6 million jobs worked by residents in July was still half a million less than those from late 2007. This has added significant stress to those who are already experiencing employment discrimination or a workplace injury – and according to workers’ compensation lawyers, the trend is moving in a troubling direction for both of those measures.

Most of the areas where people struggle to get find full-time, steady work have been especially hurt by the housing market’s implosion during the previous decade. The CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index shows that in 2012, home prices for most states with high underemployment were still at least 20% below levels from 2007. Arizona and Nevada — both of which have high rates of underemployment— saw home prices drop by one-third to one-half.

To rank states with the lowest levels of full-time work, 24/7 Wall St. compiled figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization, and focused on two measures: U-3, which is the standard measure of the unemployment rate, and U-6, which marks underemployment rates. The underemployment rate includes workers classified as “marginally attached” – in other words, those who’ve given up looking for work, as well as those working part time because hours were reduced or because full-time work is simply unavailable. The researched also studied reports published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis tracking household income state-by-state for 2012.

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Emery Reddy