The U.S. economy has changed drastically in the past decade. As the housing bubble burst and the economy spiraled into the worst recession the country has faced since the Great Depression, unemployment hit a multi-decade high of 10% in 2009. Despite major setbacks, the U.S. economy began improving in June 2009, and many parts of the country are now thriving.
There are nearly 5.9 million more jobs in the United States today than there were at the end of 2007. Employment growth, however, has not been even across all states. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 10-year job growth in all 50 states to identify the states where employment increased the most.
> 10-yr. employment change: +8.2%
> Employment change: 272,000
> Dec. unemployment: 2.8%
> Total employment: 3,590,400
While many state economies have recovered to prerecession levels, few states have improved more than Massachussetts. Employment in the state rose by 272,000 workers over the past decade, an 8.2% increase. The state’s unemployment rate in December 2007 was 4.6%. Since then, the rate has fallen by 1.8 percentage points — the second best improvement of any state — to 2.8%, the third lowest unemployment rate of any state.
A highly skilled workforce may have contributed to the state’s healthy economy. A nation-leading 41.5% of Massachusetts adults have a bachelor’s degree, more than 10 percentage points higher than the nationwide share.
Most states recorded some employment growth. Only in seven states, there are fewer jobs today than there were in December 2007. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Martin Kohli, chief regional economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, explained that the construction and manufacturing sectors have been the biggest drags on employment growth. Indeed, of the states that lost jobs in the last 10 years, manufacturing was the biggest drag in three — Connecticut, Maine, and West Virginia — while construction shed the most jobs in the remaining four: Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
Today, there are 1.4 million fewer construction jobs in the United States than there were a decade ago, the largest employment decline of any industry. “We really have not had a solid recovery in the construction industry from the burst in the housing bubble,” Kohli said. New home construction bottomed out in 2009 at 553,900 new projects and has yet to return to the decade-long peak of 1.4 million housing units started in 2007. Construction was the biggest drag on employment growth in 28 states, hitting Arizona, California, Nevada, and Florida especially hard.
On the other hand, total employment has increased in the vast majority of states over the last 10 years. Employment growth ranged from 0.1% in New Jersey to 20.7% in North Dakota. Texas, the state with the second highest proportional employment growth, at 15.3%, had the largest increase in total employment, at more than 1.6 million workers.
Employment growth in the U.S. was driven primarily by the education, health care and social services sector. Nationwide, the sector netted an addition of some 4.4 million new workers. “The aging of the population is one of the things that’s been driving job growth in health care,” Kohli explained. Driven primarily by the health care industry, the sector was the biggest contributor to employment growth in all but three states, often accounting for over 100,000 new jobs.
In some states, such as North Dakota and Texas, employment growth was also largely attributable to gas fracking and oil exploration.
The degree to which the number of jobs increased by state depended largely on the skill level of the state’s labor force and its industrial composition. It appears as though newer jobs tend to require a higher education. The share of adults with a bachelor’s degree increased by the same amount or more as the national increase in eight of the 10 states with the largest proportional rise in employment over the decade. In regards to overall job growth among states, Kohli added, it seems that “having an educated labor force was definitely a positive thing.”
To identify the states with the most and least job growth, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed employment changes in each state from December 2007 through December 2016. State totals, as well as the relative increase in each state’s employment came from Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Local Area Unemployment Statistics database. Educational attainment, median household income, and industry composition are as of 2015, unless otherwise specified, and are the most recent figures available from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. All references to proportional or nominal changes in jobs or workers in this piece refer to total employment change.