Throughout the United States, employment and earnings are on a clear uptrend. On average, 1.6% more people are employed across the country, and the average worker makes 2.1% more than she did a year ago. However, this varies greatly by region, and some places have much hotter job markets than others.
Three states (Arkansas, Alaska, and West Virginia) have less people employed than they did last year. The average wages in the U.S. Virgin Islands dropped by a whopping 13.8% year over year. With this in mind, I'd like to focus on the states with the most improved prospects for job seekers. In ascending order, the top five are...
5. Idaho -- Idaho has 2.7% more people employed than last year, and the average worker makes 1.9% more. The state's job market is improving, with the fastest growth coming in the health care sector. For instance, there are 81% more medical assistants employed in Idaho than there were 10 years ago.
Social service workers are also in demand in Idaho, with 77% growth over the past decade. Other areas of fast growth include IT systems analysts, and skilled labor jobs such as roofing, marble, and tile workers.
4. Texas -- Texas also has 2.7% more people employed than last year, as well as an above-average wage increase of 2.4%. The fastest growing Texas industries include, oil and gas-related jobs, which also pay some of the highest wages of any industry at over three times the state average. Mining, medical skills, and business management also exhibited very strong growth in recent years, both in terms of the number of jobs created and the salary increases.
3. Utah -- With a 2.8% employment growth rate, Utah is a great place for job seekers, particularly for those in office administration, sales, construction, food service, and education. It's worth noting that Utah's average wage is 15% below the national average, but it's growing faster than most states, and when combined with a low cost of living, Utah becomes an appealing option.
2. Colorado -- Colorado grew its number of jobs by 2.9% over the past year, and the University of Colorado is projecting another 61,300 new jobs to be added in 2014. The highest growth is anticipated in the business services sector, construction, and the transportation and utilities sector. Colorado's cost of living is right at the national average, but the average wage is 1.3% higher, making Colorado a good place for those who want to improve their standard of living.
1. North Dakota -- I was surprised at this, but not only did North Dakota exhibit the highest job growth in the U.S., at 3.2%, but it also has the fastest-growing wages, which improved by 3.7% year over year. North Dakota also has one of the lowest overall costs of living in the U.S., at just 92.5% of the national average.
Most of North Dakota's job growth has been a result of the booming oil industry, which is expected to continue its incredible growth rate. Jobs such as wellhead pumpers, derrick operators, service unit operators, and extraction helpers are all expected to more than double by 2020.
While the U.S. economy is doing very well, there is extreme diversity among rates of job growth in different regions, as well as the industries that are experiencing growth. For example, despite Colorado's excellent job growth rate, the telecommunications sector is expected to decline in the coming year, which is odd because the sector is growing throughout most of the country. Even in a growing economy, geography plays a big role when determining employment prospects, as well as in the quality of life those who land jobs.