The job market is complicated these days. Nationwide, unemployment has fallen to levels not seen since the turn of the millennium. In some states the rate is even lower. Yet more than 1.5 million Americans have been out of work for half a year or more, and skilled positions across the country are going unfilled. Even so, some states are deftly navigating it all, adding jobs and growing their economies. Among the 66 metrics in our America's Top States for Business study is year-over-year job growth, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These are the top states for jobs for the 12 months ending in May 2017.
Powered by a construction hiring spree in one of the hottest real estate markets in the country, the Volunteer State has been adding jobs — real jobs — at a record clip. In May, unemployment dipped below the national average, leading to talk of labor shortages and upward pressure on wages. Is the job growth sustainable? Overall, economic growth in Tennessee is also outpacing the rest of the country, but not by as much as the job market is.
Year-over-year job growth: 1.95%
Jobs added: 57,500
Growth industries: Construction, leisure and hospitality
Top States Economy rank: No. 5
Low oil prices threw the Lone Star State's economy for a loop in 2016, but the job market and overall economic growth appear to be making a comeback in the first half of 2017. Hiring is still spotty, with information technology still shedding jobs, and a slowdown in construction hiring to go with a cooling real estate market. After several years as the nation's engine for job growth, unemployment in Texas is above the national average. So while hiring is rebounding, job seekers will face some extra competition here.
Year-over-year job growth: 2.22%
Jobs added: 266,600
Growth industries: Mining/oil, professional and business services
Top States Economy rank: No. 25
America's Top State for Business in 2017 gets there on the strength of the nation's fastest-growing economy, and that is fueling the job market. The IT sector is humming in Washington, and so are mining and logging, construction and hospitality. But watch out for a slowdown in manufacturing as the state's largest employer, Boeing, sheds jobs. With unemployment closely tracking the national average, job seekers will get a lot of attention here. More important, labor is not in such short supply that employers are curtailing hiring.
Year-over-year job growth: 2.35%
Jobs added: 76,200
Growth industries: Information technology, construction, mining/logging
Top States Economy rank: No. 3
The Peach State's economy was especially slow to recover from the Great Recession, but lately it has been making up for lost time. That is good news for job seekers. Led by a surge in mining and logging and a recovering construction sector, Georgia is hiring again. Unemployment remains stuck above the national average. But with an economy growing nearly twice as fast as the nation's, prospects for the state — and its workers — are strong.
Year-over-year job growth: 2.36%
Jobs added: 103,100
Growth industries: Mining/logging, construction, finance
Top States Economy rank: No. 1
Industrious Oregonians have caught the wave of economic growth surging in the Pacific Northwest. Unemployment is well below the national average, and companies are still hiring at a steady clip. The Beaver State is traditionally a resource-based economy, including logging and mining, both of which are solidly in expansion mode. But the real push has been in construction, with double-digit job growth in a red hot housing market.
Year-over-year job growth: 2.37%
Jobs added: 43,300
Growth industries: Construction, mining/logging
Top States Economy rank: No.10 (tied with Nevada)
The transformation of Colorado's economy has been something to behold for several years now, making the Centennial State a perennial competitor in our overall rankings. But with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at a mere 2.3 percent in May, the hiring boom may be reaching its limits. Consistent with the state's move to a more tech-based economy, employment in mining and logging has fallen sharply from its peak in 2014. Manufacturing has been flat at best for more than a year. But in the service sector, job growth, while steady, is only moderate. That may have something to do with the high wages that a workforce in short supply can demand.
Year-over-year job growth: 2.4%
Jobs added: 62,000
Growth industries: Services, leisure and hospitality
Top States Economy rank: No.13
It may be hidden in terms of national attention, but the Gem State's economy is strong. The state is aggressively pursuing international investment to make up for its flagging mining and logging sector. Unemployment is at its lowest level in decades, with particular growth in health care to serve an aging population. The West is the fastest-growing region in the country. Idaho lags some of its neighbors there, but the hiring surge is no small potatoes.
Year-over-year job growth: 2.43%
Jobs added: 16,800
Growth industries: Health care, finance
Top States Economy rank: No. 8
The Great Recession badly tarnished the Silver State's economy, but lately it's on a roll. First, tourism in Las Vegas rebounded as consumer confidence rose. Now the real boom has arrived. It is in construction, with double-digit job growth in the past year. Nevada's housing market was among the nation's hardest hit in the 2008 collapse. Today it is one of the healthiest in the country, with home prices appreciating nearly 9 percent last year. Builders are rushing to cash in on that. That takes people, and that means jobs. It's a win-win.
Year-over-year job growth: 2.71%
Jobs added: 35,000
Growth industries: Construction, professional and business services
Top States Economy rank: No.10 (tied with Oregon)
The Sunshine State is another place where the clouds from the Great Recession have lifted and the future looks bright. The housing market, so decimated in the collapse, has come roaring back, bringing construction employment along with it. Of course, Florida has a long history of overbuilding, leading to an often wrenching boom-bust cycle in the real estate market. Fortunately, other sectors in the Florida job market are growing as well, including the important service sector and even manufacturing.
Year-over-year job growth: 2.73%
Jobs added: 228,000
Growth industries: Construction, services
Top States Economy rank: No. 2
The job market in the Beehive State has been in an absolute sweet spot, with perhaps the most vibrant tech scene in the nation. But Utah is also seeing solid gains in construction consistent with its neighbors in the West, thanks to one of the healthiest housing markets in the country. The state could be hitting some headwinds, however. Hiring in the IT sector has slowed markedly in the first half of 2017, following its meteoric rise the past two years. Meanwhile, the broader service sector is still adding jobs, helping to make up for big declines in mining.
Year-over-year job growth: 3.28%
Jobs added: 46,600
Growth industries: Services, construction
Top States Economy rank: No. 4