10 Job Markets Standing Up Best to Coronavirus

Social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative impact on job markets around the country. Learn where the best places to find a job are under these conditions.
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By Richard Barrington

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SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Utah ranked highest as the best place to find a job
  • Washington had the most competition for jobs
  • Nevada’s job market suffered the most
  • Some states have higher concentrations of the most vulnerable industry sectors.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet job markets in some places are holding up much better than most.

A fresh wave of graduates is hitting the job market while millions of people are already looking for work. In this tough environment, it pays to know which job markets offer the best prospects.

MoneyRates.com conducted a study to find the job markets that are best standing up to the coronavirus crisis. As expected, the study revealed sharp differences from place to place.

Overall, the job market in Utah ranked as the best place to find a job despite the coronavirus pandemic. Nevada’s job market has suffered the most.

Some examples:

  • Unemployment rates

    The average state has seen unemployment rates increase by over 12% since February; but in Washington, Michigan and Nevada, unemployment rates have jumped by over 20%.

  • Job seekers per job opening

    South Dakota has just over one job seeker for every opening while in Washington state there are over five job seekers for every opening.

  • Most vulnerable industry sectors

    Fully 63.35% of the jobs in Nevada are in industry sectors that have been most vulnerable to the coronavirus crisis, while only 42.28% of the job market in the District of Columbia is vulnerable.

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How Coronavirus Crisis Impacted Job Markets Unevenly

Why have job markets held up much better in some states than in others?

The need for social distancing drastically changed both how people work and what consumers want.

For example, remote working is a viable alternative for information-based jobs. For hands-on services such as hairdressers or bartenders, it’s not.

Consequently, consumer demand has been impacted radically too. Under these conditions, few people relish the idea of getting on a plane and traveling to a crowded hotel, so tourism has been hard hit.

Meanwhile, internet services are in high demand as more people are working from home and seeking entertainment from cable television and streaming services.

Three charts tell the story

The following charts show how uneven the impact of the coronavirus crisis has been across the states. Here’s why:

  1. The coronavirus crisis hit some job markets harder than others.
  2. The pandemic also led to uneven competition for jobs in different job markets.
  3. Some states are more exposed to vulnerable job markets.
Increase in Unemployment Rate Since February 2020
Number of Job Seekers per Job Opening
Exposure to Vulnerable Industry Sectors

Methodology: Measuring Job Markets after Coronavirus Lockdowns

To see how different job markets are holding up, MoneyRates wanted to look beyond the headline unemployment rate, though that is one important indicator.

So this study also considered how well-suited each job market seems to be for sustaining or replacing jobs and how rapidly the job market in each state deteriorates.

These are the four factors used by this study to rank all 50 states plus the District of Columbia:

  1. Unemployment rate

    Unemployment has risen across the country but is much higher in some places than in others.

  2. Increase in unemployment since February

    Coronavirus lockdowns became widespread beginning in March. Looking at the increase in unemployment since the end of February shows the post-lockdown effect on each job market.

  3. Number of job seekers for each job opening

    Though Bureau of Labor Statistics info on job openings by state is only available with a lag of a few months, comparing the number of job seekers with the last reported number of openings gives an indication of how much competition you would face for job openings in each state.

  4. Exposure to vulnerable industries

    Some types of jobs have been hit much harder than others. For example, leisure and hospitality employment is down by over 48% since February. This study looked at how much each state’s job market depends on the five industry super-sectors that have seen the worst job losses since the crisis struck.

10 Job Markets Standing Up Best to Coronavirus

There is more than enough bad news about COVID-19. This study is intended to help people take the constructive approach of focusing on where they may have the best chance of getting a job.

Here are the ten job markets that have been standing up best to the coronavirus crisis:

1. Utah

While the average state unemployment rate surged to over 13%, Utah’s is less than half that.

It has just 1.3 job seekers for every opening, and its job market is less dependent on highly vulnerable industries than those of most states.

Utah ranked among the ten best states in all four categories in this study, including being in the best three states for job seekers per opening, unemployment rate and change in unemployment since coronavirus lockdowns began.

2. Kansas

Only three states have less exposure to the industries that have been hurt worst by the health crisis. This has helped Kansas maintain the sixth-lowest unemployment rate of any state.

In addition, Kansas has less than two job seekers for every job opening. That may not sound great, but the average state has nearly three job seekers for every opening.

Kansas was strong across the board, ranking among the ten best states in all four of the study’s categories.

3. Nebraska

Just to the north of Kansas, Nebraska shares many of the same positive characteristics.

It ranked fourth-best in three categories: job seekers per opening, unemployment rate and change in unemployment since lockdowns began.

It had the fifteenth-lowest exposure to the most vulnerable industries, so it was better than most states in the remaining category.

4. Wyoming

According to the World Population Review, Wyoming has the second-lowest population density of any state, so it is well-positioned to avoid a fast breakout of COVID-19.

It has the second-lowest number of job seekers per job opening and has seen the second-lowest post-lockdown increase in unemployment.

The only drawback is that it has slightly more exposure to vulnerable industries than most states.

5. South Dakota

South Dakota ranked number one in three out of four categories: low number of job seekers per opening, lowest unemployment rate and smallest jump in unemployment since lockdowns began.

One concern going forward is that its job market is more dependent on vulnerable industries than that of all but ten other states.

6. (tie) Indiana

Though low unemployment rate was the only category in which Indiana ranked among the ten best states, it was above median in the other three categories. This all-around good performance put Indiana in the top ten overall.

6. (tie) Virginia

Virginia is the one east-coast state to make the top ten. Its greatest strength was having the third-lowest exposure to the five industry sectors that have been hit hardest by the health crisis.

It was also the tenth best for low number of job seekers per opening, and was above median in the other two categories as well.

8. Arizona

Arizona has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the nation, and it was sixth-best for lowest rate of post-lockdown job losses and fewest job seekers per opening.

One potential for trouble is that Arizona has more exposure to the hardest hit industry sectors than most states.

9. Colorado

For Colorado, it’s a case where decent performance across the board makes the difference.

Colorado did not rank among the ten best states in any of the four categories. Still, by ranking between twelfth and fifteenth in all four, it was clearly better than most states by each measure.

10. North Dakota

Rounding out the top ten, North Dakota was one of the ten best states in three out of four categories.

It does have more exposure to troubled industries than most states, so it remains to be seen whether its job market can sustain its strong performance.

Tips for Today’s Job Seekers

Finally, here are some tips for finding a job in today’s very difficult market:

  1. Be flexible about location

    The study’s results underscore that location can make a huge difference when searching for a job. The more flexible you can be about going where the jobs are, the better your chances of finding work.

  2. Look for jobs that stay in demand

    Social distancing requirements have destroyed demand for some jobs but actually created demand for others. Don’t limit your job search too narrowly. You might miss out on the best opportunities.

  3. Gain experience where you can

    Under normal circumstances, it’s important to find work in your chosen field so you can start advancing your career. However, if that’s not possible, other types of experience can look good on a resume.

    Showing that you were willing to work and take on responsibility in any field looks better on a resume than a big gap in your job history.

  4. Practice productivity

    Remote working takes discipline. If you have a job, work with your employer to set measurable goals. This can help you from drifting and demonstrate to your employer that you are worth keeping on the payroll.

  5. Build an emergency fund

    Even if you have a job, nothing is very certain these days. So, for as long as you’re drawing a paycheck, put some of that money into a savings account. Having a cushion against emergencies might come in handy.

Nothing is easy these days. That’s why you should give yourself a break by knowing where you have the best chance of finding and keeping a job.

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Full Listing

Here is a look at where each state (plus the District of Columbia) ranked in each of this study’s four categories and overall. For each category, the lower the number, the better the ranking.

State Overall Rank Exposure to Troubled Sectors (Ranked Least to Most) Ranked by Job Seekers per Opening (Ranked Low to High) Ranked by Insured Unemployment Rate (Ranked Low to High) Ranked by Change in Insured Unemployment Rate since February (Ranked Low to High)
Alabama 15 2 20 18 23
Alaska 34 30 33 37 34
Arizona 8 34 6 5 6
Arkansas 13 18 12 14 14
California 35 23 42 36 36
Colorado 9 13 15 12 13
Connecticut 43 29 49 46 41
Delaware(1) 23 36 18 19 16
District of Columbia(1) 11 1 17 20 19
Florida 29 48 22 22 26
Georgia 36 14 37 43 47
Hawaii(1) 48 50 38 40 42
Idaho 14 35 9 8 7
Illinois 26 17 29 25 24
Indiana 6 16 11 9 11
Iowa 20 11 26 23 21
Kansas 2 4 7 6 8
Kentucky 27 22 30 28 28
Louisiana 42 45 41 38 40
Maine 36 47 32 31 31
Maryland 16 31 8 13 12
Massachusetts 39 40 43 34 35
Michigan 39 5 47 50 50
Minnesota 31 25 36 32 30
Mississippi 38 8 45 44 48
Missouri 18 32 14 10 10
Montana 30 49 24 27 22
Nebraska 3 15 4 4 4
Nevada 51 51 50 51 51
New Hampshire 44 42 39 41 45
New Jersey 41 37 44 39 38
New Mexico 25 20 23 24 25
New York 49 39 48 47 46
North Carolina 23 10 16 30 33
North Dakota 10 38 5 7 5
Ohio 28 21 31 29 29
Oklahoma 18 6 19 21 20
Oregon 33 27 34 35 37
Pennsylvania 44 46 40 42 39
Rhode Island 50 43 46 48 44
South Carolina 22 7 28 26 27
South Dakota 5 41 1 1 1
Tennessee 21 26 25 15 17
Texas 17 24 21 11 9
Utah 1 9 3 2 3
Vermont 44 44 35 45 43
Virginia 6 3 10 16 18
Washington 47 19 51 49 49
West Virginia 32 33 27 33 32
Wisconsin 11 12 13 17 15
Wyoming 4 28 2 3 2
About Author
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Richard Barrington
Richard Barrington has been a Senior Financial Analyst for MoneyRates. He has appeared on Fox Business News and NPR, and has been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, CNBC and many other publications. Richard has over 30 years of experience in financial services. He has earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation from the Association of Investment Management and Research (now the “CFA Institute”).