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Can't find a job? Try Utah or Wyoming

A new study rates the top 10 and bottom 10 states for making a living. Bet you can't guess which one is the worst.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 3, 2013 12:05PM
Logo: Variety of professionals standing together (altrendo images, Stockbyte, Getty Images)How's the job search going? If you can't find one where you are, maybe it's time to broaden your horizons.

Just don't look in Hawaii.

The Aloha State came in dead last in "Best and Worst States to Make a Living," a new study from

You're much better off looking in the top 10: Washington, Virginia, Colorado, Texas, Wyoming, Minnesota, Nebraska, Utah, Kansas or Oklahoma.

But . . . isn't Hawaii a paradise? And aren't some of those other places, you know, cold?

True in both cases, but study author Richard Barrington based his analysis on more than just weather.

To come up with these rankings, the analyst took into consideration: 
  • Average wage and unemployment data (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Cost of living data (Council for Community and Economic Reseach)
  • State tax rate information (
  • "Workplace environment" rankings (Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index)

That last is to provide some "qualitative" input, says Barrington, a senior financial analyst for Obviously you should choose a job that covers the bills. But if two states hold similar job opps, why not take the one that comes with a better quality of life?

For many, that's likely to be Minneapolis rather than Maui. Although Hawaii has natural beauty (and great surfing) and also ranked No. 1 with regard to workplace environment, it also has a relatively high state tax burden and a cost of living that's two-thirds higher than the national average. Salaries, however, are only a little higher than the national average.

This is the third year in a row that Hawaii was ranked last. The nine other worst states are South Dakota, Alaska (where I now live), Vermont, West Virginia, New Jersey (my home state!), South Carolina, New York, Rhode Island and Mississippi.

(Want to know where your state ranks? See the full list on


There's hope (and employment) out there
If you were thinking of seeking fame and fortune on Oahu, this study might bum you out. However, it might help people who are convinced that it's impossible to find a job anywhere.

Articles about the job market tend to be written from "a national perspective," Barrington says. If you're living in Rhode Island, you might not know that the unemployment rate is considerably lower in Oklahoma or Arizona (No. 11 on the list).

Never pictured yourself as a Sooner or a Zonie? Don't dismiss the possibility out of hand. Just because you were born in New Jersey doesn't mean you have to stay there forever. (Ask me how I know.)

I also know that it's tough to move away from family and friends. But look at it this way: You can stick around and see your loved ones fairly often while eking out a living on unemployment or temp work, or you can turn your job search elsewhere and plan to come home for Christmas.

A smarter search

It should be a search, incidentally. Don't just head to Washington or Wyoming on the grounds that you might find work. Check online job sites such as MSN Careers or Monster. Read the help-wanted ads in online editions of regional newspapers.

Social networking can be a huge advantage in the job search, whether it's using LinkedIn or letting your Facebook friends and Twitter followers know you're in the market. Somebody might know somebody who's looking to hire.

Word of mouth works, too. An acquaintance put it out in the universe that she was looking. Within a few days, she was told about a job she probably never would have found on her own. A week later, she was hired.

I hope your own job search has a similarly happy ending. Remember: You can be happy even after you leave your comfort zone. Your real life might be waiting to begin, even if that's in Nebraska. It certainly hasn't hurt Warren Buffett any.

More from MSN Money:

Apr 3, 2013 3:37PM
Another displanted Jerseyan here. Born/lived there until I decided to retire. Then off to sunny Vegas...Cal too expensive, Fla too humid and hurricane-prone. Oregon too wet. Minnesota....sorry I got rid of my boots, gloves, and shovel.  My SS stretches at least 40% further here. And lots to do whether an active lifestyle or not. A bi-annual trip back east to say hello to family and friends still back there struggling. And an extra bedroom for them when they come excuses either as Vegas is a pretty popular place to vacation. 
Apr 3, 2013 3:45PM
Having lived in Oregon.  Yes, a beautiful place to live and visit.  However, over the years it has become a place of radical LIberals in the Portland area.    Taxes are high, income taxes high, not to mention the fees upon fees governments charge.  Unions are very strong in Oregon and pretty much run the show.  Private businesses and property owners pay a hefty price to fund the large government run unions and teachers unions. 

Apr 3, 2013 5:19PM
That's nothing. I can affirm without hesitation that the absolute worst state to find a job is the state of inebriation...
Apr 3, 2013 6:09PM
This is a lie. Most that have been unemployed have just fell off the radar, given up, and or relying on there spouse to carry them. Luckily my wife can support us until I can find work. Most like myself I live in Ohio have held a job for 20 years as a machinist for a local steel company was layed off, applied for 678 "exact" jobs that were within 50-70 miles of my home and payed accordingly. However Ohio being a Warehouse state doesn't have the use for skilled labor like many other states. So now I have started looking for work through these Temp companies and I am being offered jobs as far as 50 miles away paying 8.00 an hour. It's a Joke and 8$ an hour is a slap in the face. Ohio is by far the worse state in the US. The Fracking industry is just bringing guys in from Texas.
Apr 3, 2013 4:13PM
Iowa... 12th  Born and raised here and ashamed to be from here lately.  People used to have pride integrity, and worked hard.  Now there are not many jobs (or low paying), mentality of people seems to be at an all time low, not to mention the libral status that state has taken.
Apr 3, 2013 5:00PM
Despite Alaska's high cost of living, I'm surprised to see it so far down the list at 42.  There are a lot of great paying oilfield related jobs in the state, and I'm fortunate enough to have one of them.
Apr 3, 2013 8:16PM
how is idaho rnaked 20th???? its 49th in education, like 48th or 49th in job creations.. its like the worst state for min. wage jobs....its got the worst per capita spedning of all states.. not to mention its a top 10 non-payer state for welfare.. .yet its 20th? how is this list even accurate?
Apr 4, 2013 12:31AM
I live in Wyoming in a town of 10,000 people, which is actually a pretty big town in this state.  I have lived here for over 10 years.  I telecommuted for a company in Colorado until they went bankrupt, and my wife is a CPA.  We are both currently out of work.  This particular town is so inbred that unless you are of a particular religious persuasion, a particular race, or have friends or family in town who own business, you will NOT find a job here, no matter how well educated or experienced you are.  We are moving away this summer to find work elsewhere.
Apr 3, 2013 8:13PM

155,000 new jobs? how many were low paying part time jobs? probably 100,000 of those.. or 2/3's...btw.. how many jobs were lost this month? do they suctract that from the new ones? or are they skipping that? odd... according to a research center.. it said 12 million were unemployed...out of 250,000 million working americans... at that rage they said it was about 7.5%....however... basic math from 10 year old suggets that the rate would be around 5% of that rate...thats 1 in every 22 to 23 out of work..supposely... but that only is around 4.5% or so... so someones research is wayyyy off.. either MSN's or the medias or the gov. btw.. if were adding 150-250,000 new jobs PER MONTH.. and we've had this for a year shouldnt about 3-4 million more people be employed? odd... so how come the stats are fu##ed up?? how many are lost per month....there not telling us...more propaganda bullcrap.. btw idaho is the worst state...or it should be.. its got the lowest amount of new jobs and it ranks like 49th for job creations...

May 3, 2013 7:11PM
Would like to add- I am from Colorado.  Worked as a CNA (Certified nursing assistant) from 2005 to present.  I maintain my CNA certification by paying a yearly fee... I also have my medical terminology and BLS.  I started out working for 8 an hr, moved quickly to 13 and hr in 2005 and maintained that job until 2007 when my hours were cut and when I decided to look for a different job I was making 15 and hr.  I got a job with our MAJOR hospital in my city and was offered 10.67 an hr (what a slap in the face to go from 15 to 10.67 an hr).  I accepted thinking I would move quickly up the ladder although this never happened. 

It was mandatory to attend meetings where we were told to NOT offer patients shampoo or toothpaste unless they asked for it.  A standard nights stay in this deluxe hospital would run you 10,000 and were weren't allowed to offer patients shampoo.  SHAMEFUL... dreadful that our economy is continuing to grow more and more greedy.  Even with my years of experience as a secretary, I am unable to find full time work.

Apr 4, 2013 7:42AM
Utah has a MAJOR growing tech population, buildings going up every week...they say the Silicon Valley's sister "Silicon Slopes" - very family oriented - a wonderland if you are an outdoor person -and good wages (from what I've seen)...take a chance!!
Apr 4, 2013 1:13AM

In Colorado the Democrats have taken over politically. The whole state is now a magnet for illegal immigrants who have displaced many American  workers  who work in construction or other trades. As  soon as Obama can get them legalized and onto our entitlement programs this state will change dramatically.

Apr 4, 2013 9:52AM

I have said a thousand times. There are plenty of jobs out their. Maybe not the job that you have dreamed of, but a job. As I see it, the majority, (maybe not all) of the people who do not have a job, it's because they are not hungry. They have been living off the social system, ie, unemployment, welfare, food stamps, etc. for so long that they have accepted that as a life style. There are acceptations, disabled, etc. But I have seen way to many able body people just hanging around that could be working. Like the good Book says, an idle mind is the devil's work shop. Check out our prison system.


Apr 3, 2013 7:55PM
Trying to work in South Dakota is like shooting yourself in the foot. Locating to any of the surrounding states is like moving to America out of a 3rd world country.
Apr 4, 2013 11:53AM
Get on the train to Wisconsin. We have a govenor who got in office on the premise of creating 250,000 jobs. Good luck with that. All he ever wanted to do was strip all the people that had a decent job of all their rights. Everyone is laid off or on welfare in this state. The people that do have good jobs are behind the govenor and his plan to eliminate the middle class. Taxes are through the roof and things are getting worse instead of better for the guy that just wants to make a living and provide for his family.
Apr 8, 2013 11:31AM
So today if a person needs a job, they're supposed to become gypsies and wander across the USA to states that might provide them a job (even if temporary), while the corporate kings waller in their enormous profits and continue to ship jobs overseas while avoiding paying their fair share of taxes here by keeping their wealth in offshore accounts. Sounds perfect....for the serfdom. Hail to the 1%.
May 3, 2013 7:01PM
Just another under-employed angry citizen of the US here.  Angry that inflation keeps occurring, angry wages keep dropping, angry rent continues to increase and pissed off my hours at work keep decreasing.  Employers don't want to give people full time because they don't want to give them health insurance- talk about sharks... boy do they need that hundred thousand dollar bonus!  They don't want the average American to know that the economy is just as bad as it was in 2008 especially with lack of jobs.  More high school kids come into the work field everyday with no experience and limited hours available... more experienced workers apply for ten- fifteen jobs daily (if not more) in hopes they will achieve a job that supports their family.  The economy is not better!  It's not getting better, there's no hope that more jobs will be available soon- this is it and it's slowly getting worse.

 I am so tired of people claiming if you wanted a job you could get one... I've applied for Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Albertson's, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Walgreens, banks and you name it!  I just love the cute e-mails that I receive telling me I am over qualified or under-qualified... how adorable.  I refuse to uproot myself to move to another state where the only job available is for 8 dollars an hour.  How pathetic.

What are they going to do when people can no longer afford the inflation that continues to increase our cost of living?!!  Will they then raise the food stamp qualification income standards?  How about they raise it to 25,000 a year for a married couple?  Or how about 30,000 a year for a married couple with children?  Maybe then people would stop stealing, robbing or protesting due to the cost of living.  What is going to happen when the vast majority of us are unemployed, unable to pay rent or buy food and are on the door steps of the white house begging for things to change... will they then blame the "Left Wings" for putting starvation and poverty in our heads?!  I wonder...

Apr 4, 2013 1:38PM
There's a big differential in the job-seeking population (high school dropout to professional). The closer you are to the bottom, the more your study has credence. Once you get towards the top, your study has little meaning. I'm a physician. I don't know any colleagues who ever had difficulty finding a job in a highly desirable area. I'm in California. I've been in 41 other states. Nothing comes close to lala land.
Apr 3, 2013 10:14PM
MN?  Don't come here.  Democrat governor and State congress will bleed you dry with 2013's increase in sales and income taxes. 
Apr 3, 2013 6:01PM
I have to admit that I am shocked Alaska and South Dakota are in the 10 worst list..  Alaska and SD both have no state income tax, so I don't see how they make the list (OK, AK probably has no jobs).  I am from MD and am looking to relocate, since I cant find work here.  Been to several different states in the past, might as well go back west and try again.
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