According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest employment report, there are about 157 million Americans in the U.S. labor force. Most American workers, 71% of all nonfarm payroll employees, are employed in the service sector – that’s a total of 107.8 million people employed in the private service-providing industries. The largest sectors among these are trade, transportation, and utilities, followed by education and health services, profession and business services, and leisure and hospitality. Outside of this, about 22.5 million Americans work in government and 12.9 million work in manufacturing.
In addition to the 157 million people in the American labor force, there are about 16 million people who are self-employed. Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, comprising about 35% of the total labor force. A higher number of older Americans are working than in previous decades and a much smaller share of teenagers work today compared with earlier decades.
Every month, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of jobs are added to the economy. Since 2010, the U.S. economy has seen job growth every month, with an average of 176,000 jobs per month in 2019 and an average of 223,000 jobs per month in 2018.
The job market in the U.S. varies greatly from state to state. Each state has its own economy and industries, and the unemployment/employment rates can be useful in determining the health of a state’s economy.
States with the Highest Employment Rates
South Carolina has the highest employment rate in the United States of 97.7% (an unemployment rate of 2.3%). From September 2019 to December 2019, South Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped from 2.9% to 2.3%, hitting historic lows four times. Despite this, South Carolina has one of the lowest labor participation rates in the country of 58%, causing the state’s Department of Employment and Workforce to spend the majority of its time and resources finding workers to fill vacancies.
Utah is tied with South Carolina for the highest employment rate of 97.7%. Utah was also ranked first in the U.S. for its rate of adding jobs over the course of 2019, which were up 3.2% vs. the national average of 1.5%. Some of Utah’s industries that have seen the most growth are construction, education and health services, leisure and hospitality services, and natural resources.
Vermont is tied with both South Carolina and Utah for the highest employment rate of 97.7%. Some business owners in the state argue that the unemployment rate is too low in Vermont, as they are lacking qualified skilled workers for their companies, specifically in the manufacturing industry. Employers are cutting back on hours and production because they are unable to find the help that they need.
North Dakota has the fourth-highest employment rate in the U.S. of 97.6%, an unemployment rate of 2.4%. After the Great Recession in 2008, North Dakota’s unemployment rate stayed relatively low compared to the rest of the country, never going above 4.3%.
Colorado has the fifth-highest employment rate in the U.S. of 97.5%. Colorado has an unemployment rate of 2.5%. Like the other states with high employment rates, there are not enough available workers in Colorado for jobs that need to be filled. Some counties in Colorado, such as Yuma and Kiowa, have unemployment rates as low at 1.1%.
States with the Lowest Employment Rates
Alaska has an employment rate of 93.9%, the lowest in the United States. The state’s unemployment rate is 6.1%. Alaska is in a statewide recession and has had the fastest rate of job losses since 2015. Alaska’s oil and gas, construction, professional and business services, and state government sectors have all lost significant numbers of jobs over the past few years.
Mississippi’s employment rate of 94.3% makes it the second-lowest in the U.S. While Mississippi’s unemployment rate has been decreasing in recent years. It began rising again in 2019 and the state has the second-lowest labor participation rate in the U.S. of 55.9%. This means that just over half of the state’s eligible workers are active in the economy, causing an overall lower domestic product and lower tax revenues for the state.
The District of Columbia has an employment rate of 94.7%, the third-lowest in the U.S. D.C. has an unemployment rate of 5.3% and black residents in the District are six times as likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts, which drives up the unemployment rate. Black D.C. residents have an unemployment rate of about 11.3%, while white residents have an unemployment rate of about 1.9%. This is the result of years of economic disenfranchisement in the District that recent efforts to create equal opportunities do little to change.
West Virginia has the fourth-lowest employment rate in the nation of 95.0%. West Virginia has an unemployment rate of 5.0% and a labor participation rate of 55.7%, the lowest in the U.S. State leaders look to increasing the number of people with technical and two-year degrees to increase both employment and labor force participation.
Louisiana has the fifth-lowest employment rate in the United States of 95.1%. Louisiana’s unemployment rate is 4.9%, the same it was in December of 2018, showing no progress over the past year. There are about 103,000 Louisiana residents who are looking for jobs but are unable to find work.