Land of Opportunity, Revisited

In a post earlier this month, I commented on the declining mobility of American society.  Why that matters is that job growth in the recovery from the Great Recession of 2008 has been uneven. So has growth in personal income.  Is where you are the best place to be?

The areas with the highest rate of job growth, for the most part, simply aren’t where the people are.

The five largest states in terms of population are (Census, July 1, 2016 estimate)

  1. California  39,250,017
  2. Texas  27,862,596
  3. Florida  20,612,439
  4. New York  19,745,289
  5. Illinois 12,801,539

The five top states for job growth are

  1. North Dakota  20.7%
  2. Texas  15.3%
  3. Utah  13.6%
  4. Colorado  11.8%
  5. Washington  9.8%

Washington is the anomaly.  There has been sufficient migration, largely from California, such that despite growth, the unemployment rate has increased.

If we rank the states in actual numbers of jobs gained, the big winners are

  1. Texas  1,612,800 jobs
  2. California  1,134,100
  3. New York  644,800
  4. Florida  531,100
  5. Massachusetts  272,000

For every winner, there’s a loser.  The five states that have lost the most jobs since the Great Recession are

  1. Wyoming   -5.2%
  2. Mississippi  -2.3%
  3. New Mexico -2.2%
  4. Alabama  -1.9%
  5. Connecticut  -1.6%

Of course, percentages don’t tell the whole story.  Wyoming has a smaller economy than Connecticut, so a loss of 15,400 jobs is a high percentage of total jobs in Wyoming than a loss of 27,300 jobs is in Connecticut.

Job growth doesn’t correspond to income growth.  Texas shows high job growth spi0616coupled recently with declining per capita income.  Maine has a declining population but is showing good per capita income growth, in part due to a shortage of workers.

In some states, there’s a clear logic to people staying put.  In California, the out-migration is probably more due to housing costs than jobs, even though it will make it harder for employers to keep jobs filled.  However, there are good reasons for people to be leaving the deep South and areas of the Plains and West.  Mississippi is a particular problem as the data I’ve posted shows that they don’t fund social services, don’t fund schools and don’t do an adequate job of providing work for residents.

What we don’t know is the size of the Gray Economy in each state.  That’s employment that’s off the books — that people try to hide from the IRS.  It exists and is potentially large.  A poster child for that is a news stand in NYC that was reporting $30,000 in annual sales and conducting $800,000 in off the books drug sales annually.  (Sadly, I read this years ago in The New York Times and can’t find the citation for it.)



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