Top 3 States for Finding a Job

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Against a backdrop of a robust labor market that added 168,000 more jobs than expected in January, some could easily assume that finding a job may be difficult.

In some states, the opposite is true—employers are struggling to find workers. Notably, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Alaska.

In the current economic upswing marked by manageable unemployment and a labor participation rate nearing pre-COVID levels, not all states are experiencing the labor market’s post-pandemic recovery uniformly, according to a WalletHub report issued Wednesday showing which states have more jobs available than employees to fill them.

Across the U.S., job opening rates vary considerably depending on the state’s population size. In West Virginia, with a population of 1.77 million, the average job opening rate over the past year was 7.23 percent, the highest among the states WalletHub examined. Despite having a much larger population of 5.37 million, South Carolina saw a slightly lower average job opening rate of 6.97 percent.

People walk by a now-hiring sign posted in front of a CVS store. In West Virginia, South Carolina, and Alaska, employers face challenges filling positions, signaling job opportunities in these states.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Interestingly, Alaska, with the smallest population of just 733,400 residents, also held an average job opening rate of 7.53 percent, nearly matching West Virginia’s figure.

A Post-Pandemic Era?

While the job market is flourishing in certain states like New York and California where the rate of job openings was 4.43 percent and 4.81 percent over the last 12 months, respectively, the underlying reasons why others are seeing more job openings than available workers are varied.

According to multiple experts, a combination of factors contributes to the challenge employers face in filling positions, but a post-pandemic economy is a recurring theme.

Abbie Lambert, Ph.D., from the University of Central Oklahoma, points to the pandemic’s lasting impact on the labor market. “Labor force participation during the pandemic is just now hitting close to pre-2020 levels and is still below the levels in the late 2000s. This is complicated by the accelerated rate of baby boomers retiring during the pandemic and the decrease in overall hours worked by those in the labor force,” she said in a statement shared with Newsweek.

Lambert said that certain sectors, especially information technology and healthcare which already have a talent shortage, can feel the disparity more acutely than sectors that have lesser skilled positions.

A post-pandemic shift of priorities of the workforce also plays a role, according to Dr. Dena Bateh of Rochester Institute of Technology, who said that the pandemic prompted many to reevaluate what they seek in employment. “Although this is not a new direction for any job-seeker, the pandemic allowed many to reflect upon what is important in life —and this often does not mean working in a traditional role (9-5) or even working remotely, where work is often monitored,” Bateh said in a statement.

Bateh also said the rise of the gig economy—like Uber, and DoorDash—and a declining work ethic have steered potential employees away from traditional roles, complicating the hiring process further.

“The Gig Economy has led many Millennials and GenZ individuals to seek work, even ‘just to get by’, to ensure their personal happiness, and personal time, and to enjoy what they do,” she said, adding that the “trend has grown over the past 4 years, and I suspect that it will continue to be an alternative approach to traditional employment.”

What Can Employers Do To Fix The Issue?

To combat hiring challenges, Associate Professor James Bailey at Providence College suggests that employers may need to offer more competitive wages or flexible working conditions to attract and retain workers.

“The simplest method, though not the easiest, is to pay more,” he said in a statement shared with Newsweek. “You can also widen the pool of workers you can attract and retain if you can offer remote or hybrid options.”

Lambert suggested that employers should begin to reevaluate their employee value proposition (EVP), saying that once “current strengths and opportunity gaps are discovered and evaluated through the lens of the organization’s strategy, detailed plans can be built that focus on elevating and communicating the EVP.”

“Employers may do this by building positive workplace cultures that value well-being and trust while decreasing burnout and stress,” she added.

As for the future of the labor market imbalance, opinions vary.

While some, like Bailey, forecast a slight increase in the unemployment rate, suggesting a gradual easing of hiring difficulties, others foresee continued competition for labor. Lambert speculates that the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) with human intelligence (HI) in the workplace could redefine roles and potentially ease some of the current hiring challenges.