Top 10 States for Employment Outlook

Although the recent recession has been hard on just about every state, not all states were affected equally. As Alaska depends on any given industry to a different extent than say Nebraska, many states were disproportionately affected by the recession. For instance, when housing prices crashed to nearly half their value in 2008, states that were more dependent on the housing industry, like Arizona, ended up tallying the most foreclosures in the following years.

Similarly, how well states have managed to recover has varied from region to region. Apart state policies that have helped or hindered their development, the individual actions of major employers has been a powerful influence on state recovery. Below you’ll find an employment outlook for the top ranking states and an examination of where that growth is occurring in a forecast that gazes as far into the future as the year 2020.


California Bay Bridge

With a workforce of about 15.9 million people, it makes sense that as one of the largest states, California is also has some of the greatest employment. California has a projected increase of about 16.3% over the next decade which works out to a total of about 2.6 million new jobs.

The fastest growing industries in California include home health aides, carpentry, market research analysis, brick masonry, and personal care aides, with each field expecting growth of nearly 50% during that time. The largest sources of employment in California include personal care aides, retail salespersons, food preparation, cashiers, and registered nurses, which cumulatively represent the bulk of the coming increase in employment opportunities.

Although California currently has a relatively large unemployment rate of about 8.7%, it’s been on the decline since hitting peak levels of about 12.3% in 2010. If current trends hold, unemployment in California may soon be below 5% as it was back in 2007.




Like California, Texas is a large state with an equally large workforce of about 13.7 million people. That figure is expected to increase by about 2.2 million in the coming decade, which amounts to a massive 20.1% increase in employment by 2020.

The fastest growing industries in Texas include employment opportunities in bioengineering, medical diagnostics, derrick oil operation, home health aide, and personal care aide. It’s also worth noting that Texas has remarkable growth for special education teachers at nearly all educational levels. The largest job sectors in Texas include food preparation, nursing, customer service representatives, and retail salespersons. While Texas has an unemployment rate of about 6.2%, that figure is a relatively minor increase over the 4.3% figure of 2008 and has been continuing to steadily decline since the end of 2011.

New York

New York City

Although New York has relatively small economy compared to behemoth states like California and Texas, there are more than 9.3 million working New Yorkers today with an expected increase of 9% (840k) by 2020. The fastest growing job sectors in New York include careers for home health aides, event planners, veterinary technologists, physical aid therapists, and health educators, with each field seeing a growth of about 45% in the coming decade.

On the other hand, the employment sectors in New York include jobs as office clerks, registered nurses, retail salespersons, and secretaries, each which is expected to experience around a 6-13% increase by 2020. Although the unemployment rate in New York today is around 7.7%, there continue to be promising signs of recovery towards the 4.3% that it enjoyed in 2007.




Apart from being one of most beautiful places in the nation and a leading retirement destination, Florida boasts a healthy economy of 7.9 million employees. This number is anticipated to expand by an addition 1.1 million (14.7%) by 2020 with 2.5% annual growth.

The fastest growing industries in Florida include biomedical engineering, medical science, brick masonry, layout work, and mathematical science, with each field enjoying around 50% growth during that time. The largest sources of employment in the state include jobs in cashiering, customer service, nursing, and food prep, each expected to grow between 6% and 15%.

Prior to the recession Florida had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country nation. And although Florida was one of the states hit hardest with unemployment rates growing as high as 11.4% in 2010, steady recovery since has that figure as low as 6.7% today.




As the 5th most populous state in the union, Illinois has an economy to match. The currently 5.9 million employed Illinois residents can expect an 8.6% rise by 2020, an increase of about half a million jobs. The fastest growing industries in Illinois are in biomedical engineering, software development, animal caretaking, home health aide, and market research analysis, each which can expect around 35% growth by 2020.

On the other hand, the largest sources of employment in Illinois include jobs for elementary school teachers, operations managers, registered nurses, and retail salespersons, with 8% growth or greater during the same period. Despite the fact that Illinois reached 11.3% unemployment at the height of the recession, it’s since rebounded to below 9% with a steady decrease on route to the sub-5% levels of 2006.




As the 6th most populous state in the nation, Pennsylvania’s economy is fairly similar to Illinois. There are almost 6 million employed Pennsylvanians participating in the local economy, and that number is anticipated to grow by about 380k (6.4%) by 2020. The fastest growing industries in Pennsylvania include biomedical engineering, software development, medical science, and pest control, with projected growth of nearly 35% for each field.

Meanwhile, the largest sources of employment in the state include positions as cashiers, registered nurses, customer service representatives, and retail salespersons, which expect between 8 and 13% growth. Although Pennsylvania still maintains a relatively high unemployment rate of 7.5%, that number has been reliably and steadily declining since 2010 and may even reach 2006 levels of 4.2%.



Although Arizona was one of the states hit hardest by the recession, it’s also been one of the states to find the quickest recovery. As the housing market has begun to stabilize, Arizona’s 2.6 million workers is expected to expand by more than half a million in the next seven years, an increase of nearly 20%. While construction and hospital industries are having the most immediate growth, adding more than 10,000 jobs in the past year alone, the fastest growing fields are for biomedical engineers, carpenters, heating and a/c technicians, stonemasons, and diagnostic medical sonographers.

Like many of the other states on this list, Arizona’s largest sources of employment for registered nurses, customer service representatives, retail salespersons, and cashiers, with 18-30% increases for these fields by 2020. Although Arizona’s unemployment rate is around 8.2% currently, its recovery since the recession of 2008 has been phenomenally consistent.


North Dakota

North Dakota

Although North Dakota is one of the least populous states, coming in at 48th, Dakotans can expect job growth that nearly matches that of Arizona. With roughly 420,000 employed, North Dakota can anticipate an 18.2% increase of that figure by 2020. This includes incredible growth in rotary drill operation, service operation, and derrick operation of oil and gas, each expected to grow by more than 130% during the same period.

The largest source of employment in North Dakota includes work for bookkeepers, waiters, heavy machinery operators, and retail salespersons. North Dakota also enjoys one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, a mere 2.7%, as employment levels in the state were nearly unaffected by the recession.




Although Nevada’s anticipated growth of 11.6% of the currently 1.2 million employed Nevadans isn’t setting any records, the state deserves special mention as one of the places hit hardest by the recession. Nevada’s recovery has been nothing short of phenomenal. With unemployment reaching 14% in 2010, Nevada has turned its economy around quicker than nearly all of the other states that were serious impacted by the recession. And while the 9.3% unemployment rate in the state today isn’t going to win Nevada any awards, a 5% rise in employment in a matter of two years certainly deserves a standing ovation.

Nevada’s fastest growing industries include roof bolting, carpentry, mining, and construction, with anticipated growth in each field exceeding 50%. Some of the largest sources of employment in Nevada include positions for gaming dealers, housekeepers, janitors, and security guards, with growth of 10% or greater for each.




As one of the most populous states with some of the most densely populated cities, Ohio’s economy wasn’t in great shape even before the recession took hold. But recently that’s started to change, with 5.4 million employed and another 500,000 jobs anticipated by 2020. The fastest growing industries in Ohio include positions for home health aides, registered nurses, medical secretaries, and office clerks, with more than 11% growth in each sector. Similarly, the largest sectors of employment are for registered nurses, cashiers, customer service representatives, and retail salespersons. Although Ohio’s 7.5% unemployment rate is still slightly above the national average, much like for those in Nevada, the tides have begun to turn for Ohioans.