States With Top Job Growth in the First Half of 2016

The latest employment estimates show the biggest gains in the West.
by | July 22, 2016

As some industries experience far stronger growth than others, state economies have headed in different directions so far this year.

Employment estimates released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Friday provide an updated snapshot of each state’s economy. We've compiled data for the first six months of the year, showing which group of states recorded the strongest job gains.

Since December, a dozen states registered increases in total employment exceeding 1 percent. Those growing at the fastest rates over the short six-month period were Nevada (+1.7 percent), Oregon (+1.7 percent) and Washington state (+1.6 percent).

Overall, Oregon’s economy has enjoyed the top growth of any state, outpacing the nation as a whole since 2013. Nick Beleiciks, a state employment economist, said that while Portland has fared well for several years, job creation has spread to other areas of the state more recently. “Things are still looking up in the near term,” he said. “The growth has been pretty broad-based industry-wise and is more broad-based geographically.”

Professional and business service-sector jobs account for many of the 31,000 new jobs over the past six months. Nike, which is headquartered in Beaverton, Ore., is expanding, and Beleiciks also singled out construction, the state’s fastest growing industry, as it has increased by 10 percent over the year.

About half of states aren’t adding jobs quite as fast. States like Arizona, Illinois and New York are growing at a slower pace.

In another nine states, employment has remained essentially flat since December. Alaska and Kansas, for example, have yet to experience any growth this year, and looking back further, employment levels remain nearly unchanged from a year ago.

A select few states -- primarily those with struggling energy sectors -- suffered notable job losses. Wyoming has shed more than 2 percent of its workforce since December, the largest decline nationally, according to the latest federal estimates. Coal miners there continue to be laid off by the hundreds. A recent report by the state department of administration and information painted a bleak outlook, stating that an oversupply of natural gas and oil serves as an ongoing issue for state producers. Similarly, North Dakota has lost about 1.5 percent of its employment base, or 7,000 jobs, since December.

In terms of total net gains, California (+186,000), Florida (+113,000) and other large states have added the most jobs. In Texas, monthly employment gains appear to have tapered off a bit following strong growth in recent years. Since December, the state’s economy has expanded at a slower rate than most other states and more than twice as slow as California and Florida.

SOURCE: Author's calculations of BLS nonfarm seasonally-adjusted employment estimates

NOTE: June job estimates are preliminary.

For only June, total nonfarm employment climbed nearly 1 percent in Delaware for the largest monthly increase. Preliminary estimates further suggest Hawaii, Maine, Nevada and New Hampshire experienced strong growth last month as well. Meanwhile, West Virginia shed another 0.8 percent of its workforce (-6,000 jobs) for the largest monthly decline. While the state’s mining sector has experienced a slow and steady decline, the biggest hit last month was the loss of an estimated 10,000 public-sector jobs.

South Dakota (2.7 percent) and New Hampshire (2.8 percent) report the nation’s lowest unemployment rates. At 6.7 percent, Alaska is home to the highest jobless rate.

Over the longer term, Oregon (+3.2 percent), Utah (+3.2 percent) and Delaware (+3.1 percent) registered the top job gains over the past 12 months. Only seven states experienced declines or have seen employment levels remain unchanged. Nowhere is incurring a economic downturn quite like North Dakota, where the oil boom has come to halt. Since last June, the state has lost an estimated 15,000 workers -- 3.3 percent of its employment -- the largest job loss nationally.