be willing to move in order to find a jobThere's no question the United States has a jobs crisis. The unemployment rate stands at 9.1%, millions of workers have been unemployed for more than a year, and prospects for the overall employment situation don't seem to be getting any better.

But take a closer look at a state-by-state view of unemployment and you can find parts of the country where unemployment is actually lower than the more typical unemployment rate of 4% to 6%, approaching what economists refer to as "full employment."

For today's job seekers, the biggest question may not be if you want a new job, but where are you willing to go to find one?

Want a Job? Head North

Regions of the country have been affected by the economic downturn in different ways over the past several years:

  • On the East Coast, layoffs at financial institutions like Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C) left thousands without banking jobs.
  • In the Midwest, bankruptcies at General Motors (GM) and Chrysler left Detroit and much of the surrounding areas of Michigan for dead.
  • California's high cost of living and budget problems have led to a housing bust and massive budget deficit, leaving many public employees without work.

But look to the Northern states, and you'll see a big difference in employment rates compared to states in the South and slightly less, where unemployment is actually getting worse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' regional and state unemployment release, New England and East North Central, stretching from Maine to Wisconsin, were two of the fastest regions to cut unemployment over the past year.

Region
Unemployment Rate August 2010
Unemployment Rate August 2011
New England
8.4%
7.8%
East North Central
10.1%
9.5%
Mountain
9.6%
9.0%
East South Central
9.6%
9.8%
West South Central
7.9%
8.0%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The two South Central regions, where unemployment is still getting worse, stretch from Alabama and Kentucky across to Oklahoma and Texas. One of the surprises of this data is that the East North Central region, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, is improving relatively quickly despite being one of the worst hit by the recession.

Dirty Work Is Still Work

There are plenty of areas of the country where jobs are available for those willing to do the work. They aren't near beaches, the weather isn't beautiful year round, and the pay isn't all that great. But a job is a job, right?

If you're willing to do some dirty work, Nebraska (with an unemployment rate of 4.2%), North Dakota (3.5%), and South Dakota (4.7%) are looking for workers and are the only states in the country where unemployment is below 5%. Look a little harder, and Wyoming (5.8%) and Iowa (6.1%) aren't far from "full employment" as well.

A major reason for the strong employment in these states is their reliance on agriculture as a source of revenue. Even as the recession got worse, people were still eating and China was still growing and demanding food, and companies needed workers to fill demand. In addition, newfound energy resources have boosted prospects in some of these states.
It also doesn't hurt that in these regions the cost of living is much lower -- and companies don't have to pay as much to give employees a good standard of living. In Fargo, N.D., you can find a slew of three-bedroom homes for less than $150,000, something that would be impossible in New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco.

The New State of Employment

But despite these regional opportunities, the biggest problems with our employment may be the sticky nature of employment in general. It takes a long time for people to adjust to a new normal in our employment needs. Education and skills don't change overnight, families can't be uprooted at the tip of a hat, and moving across the country is a cultural adjustment as well.

In two of the fastest growing industries where workers are needed, oil shale drilling and solar manufacturing and installation, the necessary skills aren't often possessed by those who are currently unemployed.

An unemployed homebuilder in San Diego can't just walk into a job at an oil and gas company or refinery, just like an unemployed school teacher isn't qualified to install solar panels.

Are You Willing to Pack Your Bags, or Not?

While it isn't a reasonable solution for many people to uproot families and embark on a new career, for those willing to make the life change, opportunities are available. North Dakota has gone as far as sending government officials and businesses leaders to the Minneapolis area in an effort to recruit qualified workers.

There are certainly places beyond the Midwest where skilled workers are in demand. But you might have to get your hands dirty this time around. In other words, the suit and tie of the banking boom and bust may have to be replaced by a warm set of Carhartts and a pair of steel-toed shoes.

Motley Fool contributor Travis Hoium doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool and check out his personal stock holdings. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and Citigroup. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of General Motors.


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22 Comments

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venturamickey

Pay attention people to what this administration has done, is doing and trying to do.
You let them in one more term and it is curtains to our Republic our Constitution and the American way of life.
Vote the bums out or impeach them now but do something you other politicians who stand by and let the status quo slide right into another year without action or comment. These politicians allowing all this should be tried criminally for their act against our countries well being.

October 15 2011 at 1:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
libbyejansen

I see a small problem at least with Nebraska isn't that where they are having a lot of flooding? to the point where the nuclear plant there is in danger.

October 14 2011 at 9:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cpenrod

Bill Clinton & Co. sold out Americans with NAFTA, and it's only going to get worse with Obama and Co. crooks. I refuse to do anything to enhance their corrupt and criminal intentions.

October 14 2011 at 8:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
joeldor

Please don't move to Rhode Island. Our economy is in crisis and there are NO jobs here..

October 14 2011 at 7:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pam Miller

Who's paying for gas, if the unemployment ran out?

October 14 2011 at 7:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Pam Miller's comment
floatgod

Maybe O'Bama will drive out and move you to your next job. Or maybe you can do it on your own (though from the sound of your post I would highly doubt it.) Better go on welfare if you're not already.

October 14 2011 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wolf

The only thing in this article that rings true is that the banks, who got a bail out and the auto companies who got a bail out, gone to the dogs. Any one who believes that unemployment went down, I have some ocean front property in AZ.

October 14 2011 at 5:13 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
topat5

If you get hungry, you will work. Unemployment benifits should be for a maximum of 6 weeks, after that it is welfare.

October 14 2011 at 5:09 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
antipodal2u

9% unemployment my azz. What abt the people who arent counted anymore that have used up thier unemployment or the self employed or the disenfranchised who gave up? More like 20-25% at best

October 14 2011 at 3:58 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to antipodal2u's comment
MILES

AMEN TO THAT , apparently they cannot report past the barrier of 9%, most of us know its alot more then that!!

October 14 2011 at 4:35 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
celticcatholics

The "low" unemployment rate in South Dakota is deceiving. Only one area has jobs, Sioux Falls, maybe. In the West, no. Our unemployment is more like 5% and when I moved here 15 years ago, it was 1.5%. Why? Because people stay at any jobs they get. New ones are hard to find.

North Dakota and Wyoming have oil field jobs, and Wyoming has open pit coal mine jobs. The cost of living in those select areas is very high because housing is at a premium for workers.

Do NOT pack your jobs for anywhere on this list until you are SURE there is a job AND affordable housing available.

My husband sees new people, coming in daily at the temp agency where he goes every day, hoping for work. "Where are you from? Why are you here?" he asks. Where? New Mexico, California, Las Vegas, New York, everywhere. Why? Because I heard there is work here." Then why is my skilled husband in his third year of unemployment? He doesn't factor into the statistics because he works part time and does not qualify for unemployment, and there are hundreds in our area like him. We live in western SD near Rapid City. New houses stand empty - no one can afford them anymore.

BTW the hotels and motels flew in workers from the Ukraine and Asia to do their housekeeping during the tourist season - for $6 an hour and no taxes, taking away hundreds of seasonal jobs from people like us and also college students. And it was LEGAL!

October 14 2011 at 3:54 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Russell Bennett

Outsourcing Is the result of us having the highest taxes in the world. The plan that Herman Cain wants to put into effect would make our taxes some of the lowest in the world. Think about Ford selling cars world wide with a lower price then other Companies.

October 14 2011 at 3:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Russell Bennett's comment
barney

he still hasn't solved anything on the spending side......and he won't........nobody has the balls
to cut military spending by 33%

October 14 2011 at 10:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply