Maps

The Uneven U.S. Jobs Recovery Is Even Clearer When Tracked Per Capita

California added 900,000 new jobs during the recovery, but they were spread over the state's 38 million residents.

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AP

Today, there’s definitely some good news in the U.S. economy. The recovery is, by nearly every definition, well underway, and new jobs are being created across the country. But the bad news is that the recovery remains highly uneven, in terms of both the kinds of jobs that have reappeared and their locations. The economy hasn’t replaced many of the once well-paying, mid-skill blue collar jobs it lost, and there’s been far greater growth in low-wage jobs and high-wage jobs.

Even more, the recovery has been geographically uneven. We’ve heard how some states have generated a disproportionate number of new jobs, and how these good and bad jobs are distributed irregularly across the country. 

A new analysis from labor market data and research firm EMSI compares state-by-state job growth during the recession to each state’s overall population, generating an extremely useful per-capita growth number for the years between 2010 and 2013. EMSI then extended that analysis to examine the per capita growth in good and bad jobs across the states over the same period. (Though do note that the EMSI data cover only salaried employees, so it excludes self-employed workers, which make up about 7 percent of the labor force.)

Looking at job growth on a per capita basis enables us to get a better handle on how states have fared over the recovery. California for example, gained more than 900,000 new jobs, far and away the most of any state between 2010 and 2013. But that overall statistic misses a big part of the picture. California is a huge state, home to 38 million people—more than all of Canada—and based on job growth per capita, California ranks sixth. With 236 new jobs for every 10,000 residents, it comes in behind four states and the District of Columbia.

The map below tracks per capita job growth in U.S. states from 2010 to 2013.

New Jobs Per 10,000 Residents (2010-2013)

The map conforms to the pattern of an economy recovering around the twin pillars of energy and knowledge. North Dakota, the center of the natural gas boom, leads the way by a huge margin with 940 new jobs per 10,000 people. Next is D.C., where a thriving knowledge economy is bolstered by a large government presence. Utah, with its booming tech economies in young cities like Provo, comes in third, followed by Texas, which combines an energy economy around Houston with knowledge and tech hubs around Austin and Dallas. Here, the nearly 800,000 total new jobs translate into 299 positions per 10,000 residents. Colorado, itself a hub for knowledge and energy, is in fifth, and California, with its knowledge economies around the Bay Area, San Diego and L.A., is in sixth.

Rounding out the top ten are four states that are pleasant surprises. Michigan’s 233 new jobs per 10,000 residents suggest a rebound from the hard-hitting manufacturing decline, while Minnesota, expensive Hawaii, and the Sunbelt’s Arizona follow close behind. This may signal good news for Michigan and Minnesota especially.

At the other end of the spectrum, the states that saw the least job growth per capita are less surprising. These are the places where job growth has been most anemic (below 1.6 percent) over the last few years. Many of these are in the South, including Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Several Northeastern states are also in the bottom ten: Maine, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. In all, eleven states have seen fewer than 100 new jobs per 10,000 residents since 2010.

But looking at the overall growth in jobs provides only part of the picture, as not all jobs are created equal. To get at this, EMSI ran the numbers on per capita job growth for both low-wage jobs (which pay less than about $14 dollars an hour) and high wage jobs (those which pay around $21 dollars or more) for the 50 states.

Nationally, slightly less than a third (31 percent) of all jobs generated between 2010 and 2013 were high-wage jobs, while just 26 percent were mid-wage. The greatest share, 43 percent, was low-wage. Nearly a quarter of all new jobs added between 2009 and 2013 were in just five low-skill occupations, including food prep and retail.   

The map below charts the growth in high-wage jobs per capita.

New High-Wage Jobs Per 10,000 Residents (2010-2013)

Again we see the patterns of a knowledge-energy economy. North Dakota, D.C., and Utah retain their positions at the top of the rankings. North Dakota gained 364 new high-paying jobs per 10,000 people. Colorado and Texas again do well, each with about 100 new high-wage jobs per 10,000 people. Other states that fall slightly lower on the overall rankings, but which have robust knowledge or energy economies, perform well—including Massachusetts, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.

But several states performed much more poorly. Rhode Island, Louisiana, Maine, Arkansas, Alabama, and West Virginia saw between 10 and 20 new well-paying jobs per 10,000 residents. Mississippi gained just six, while New Mexico actually lost seven high-wage jobs for every 10,000 residents.

The final map, below, looks at the growth in lower-paying jobs on a per capita basis.

New Low-Wage Jobs Per 10,000 Residents (2010-2013)

Here the picture becomes more interesting. On the one hand several of the states that top the lists of overall job growth and high-wage job growth also turn up here. Generally speaking, the job market is often consistent across the board, with low-wage jobs following growth in overall and high-wage positions. As my Martin Prosperity Institute colleague Charlotta Mellander demonstrated this fall, on a metro level places with more high-wage job growth tend to have more low-wage job growth as well. So, for example, North Dakota’s energy boom has created demand for energy workers and contractors, as well as restaurants, hotels, and other amenities. Unsurprisingly, then, North Dakota, Utah, D.C., and Texas again top the list.

But there are several states whose economies appear to rely more on low-wage jobs. Florida and Tennessee, which rank 15th and 16th in overall per capita job growth, come in at 5th and 6th in terms of low-wage job growth per capita. Notably, Tennessee gained 107 low-wage jobs for every 10,000 residents but just 38 high-wage jobs. And not a single state saw fewer than 20 new low-wage positions per 10,000 residents, a sign that this is where most job growth is concentrated, particularly in places that are still struggling.

About the Author

  • Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More
    Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here