Looking for a job? A vibrant economy in which to launch your new business? A new market for your firm's next expansion? The Kiplinger Letter's annual state economic outlooks help job-seekers, entrepreneurs and business executives to get ahead of shifts in job creation and GDP in different markets across the country.
The following 15 states are likely to see the fastest employment gains next year, from 2.1% to 4.0%, all topping the 1.8% national average. Not all will see the highest numbers of new jobs, an honor that almost always goes to the most populous states, even if their rate of growth is slower. That's the case this year with Texas and New York. But three large states — California, Florida and North Carolina — will be among the 15 fastest-growing and the five with the biggest gains. Northeastern states will see the least growth.
Meanwhile, look for unemployment rates to continue to decline in almost all the states. The U.S. unemployment rate, as of September, was 5.1%.
States are ranked by projected job growth in 2016, beginning with the fastest-growing. Population figures are from 2014.
- Population: 2,839,0992015 job growth: 3.4%2016 job growth: 4.0%New jobs in 2015: 41,000New jobs in 2016: 50,800Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 6.5%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 6.1%
The stronger national economy will bring in more gamblers and conventioneers. Moreover, carmaker Tesla's planned $5-billion battery plant near Reno spells potentially thousands of new jobs by the end of 2016.
- Population: 6,731,4842015 job growth: 2.4%2016 job growth: 3.6%New jobs in 2015: 60,500New jobs in 2016: 95,200Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 5.6%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 5.4%
Arizona can finally expect a year of strong recovery in 2016 as housing market momentum continues. Employment growth, led by gains in health care and insurance jobs, will accelerate, too.
- Population: 19,893,2972015 job growth: 3.3%2016 job growth: 2.9%New jobs in 2015: 254,300New jobs in 2016: 236,700Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 5.2%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 4.7%
Construction, tourism, health care, transportation and technology will buoy the economy. Employment growth in Orlando, Miami, Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale will continue to be strong. One damper: the weak economy of Latin America, which has many ties to Florida.
- Population: 10,097,3432015 job growth: 2.6%2016 job growth: 2.6%New jobs in 2015: 108,100New jobs in 2016: 111,200Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 5.9%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 5.7%
Strong growth will continue next year in Atlanta and Savannah. A wide spectrum of industries will do well, including makers of autos and auto parts. The strong dollar has slowed export-intensive manufacturing, such as the machinery, paper and food industries. But professional and business services and the leisure and hospitality industries are strong.
- Population: 6,549,3522015 job growth: 1.9%2016 job growth: 2.4%New jobs in 2015: 52,800New jobs in 2016: 69,400Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 5.5%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 5.4%
Although national growth in auto production is expected to ease in 2016, it will continue to grow in Tennessee as more parts producers move into the state’s growing auto ecosystem around Nashville and Knoxville. The extent of the damage to Volkswagen production in Chattanooga from the air emissions scandal remains to be seen, however.
- Population: 7,061,5302015 job growth: 3.2%2016 job growth: 2.4%New jobs in 2015: 98,400New jobs in 2016: 75,000Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 5.1%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 5.0%
The slowdown in the economies of emerging-market nations will slow aircraft orders at Boeing. Moreover, the strong dollar is denting exports of timber and seafood, but the impact may be minimal.
7. South Carolina
- Population: 4,832,4822015 job growth: 2.7%2016 job growth: 2.4%New jobs in 2015: 51,800New jobs in 2016: 46,900Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 6.2%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 5.7%
Improvements to the Port of Charleston are bolstering construction and warehousing. Though the strong dollar will slow growth in the export-intensive sectors of manufacturing (such as aerospace), business and professional services, health care, retail and restaurants will remain robust.
- Population: 3,970,2392015 job growth: 3.1%2016 job growth: 2.3%New jobs in 2015: 52,600New jobs in 2016: 41,500Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 5.0%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 5.1%
Thriving development in Portland, spawned by tech expansions, is also lifting other cities, such as Eugene, Bend and Medford. Tech firms will remain a job magnet, along with health care and food services. The growth slowdown is related to weaker demand from China and Asia, especially in electronics.
- Population: 38,802,5002015 job growth: 2.8%2016 job growth: 2.3%New jobs in 2015: 439,600New jobs in 2016: 374,100Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 5.9%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 5.7%
California will outperform the national average over the next several years, especially in the tech sector and life sciences. But high home prices, tight labor markets, and the Asian slowdown will take some of the steam out of California’s job machine.
- Population: 2,942,9022015 job growth: 3.8%2016 job growth: 2.3%New jobs in 2015: 50,900New jobs in 2016: 31,400Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 3.0%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 2.6%
Tight labor markets will get even tighter as employment rises, spurred by the Beehive State's vibrant tech and financial sectors. Demand for multifamily housing and office space will spur construction. Semiconductor output, however, is hurt by declining demand from China.
11. North Carolina
- Population: 9,943,9642015 job growth: 2.5%2016 job growth: 2.2%New jobs in 2015: 105,200New jobs in 2016: 93,000Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 5.2%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 4.7%
Construction is booming, and professional, business, and health services, plus leisure/hospitality, will see strong job gains. Like elsewhere, manufacturing will continue to face headwinds created by the strong greenback. All in all, a positive outlook for Raleigh and Charlotte.
- Population: 6,596,8552015 job growth: 2.3%2016 job growth: 2.1%New jobs in 2015: 68,200New jobs in 2016: 64,100Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 4.7%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 4.6%
Population growth is easing, lessening strong gains in leisure/hospitality jobs. And the strong dollar will dent pharmaceuticals and medical equipment production. But prospects remain upbeat, overall, with a continued drop in unemployment.
- Population: 1,634,4642015 job growth: 3.3%2016 job growth: 2.1%New jobs in 2015: 21,400New jobs in 2016: 13,900Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 3.7%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 3.7%
Construction is going full steam, and employment in the tech sector is growing fast. One caveat: Semiconductor and electronics output has been hurt by the decline in demand from China.
- Population: 935,6142015 job growth: 1.6%2016 job growth: 2.1%New jobs in 2015: 7,000New jobs in 2016: 9,500Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 4.4%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 4.4%
A continued pickup in the credit card industry will improve growth in Delaware, a national hub for card companies. The pace of construction is also quickening.
15. New Hampshire
- Population: 1,326,8132015 job growth: 1.3%2016 job growth: 2.1%New jobs in 2015: 8,500New jobs in 2016: 13,800Unemployment rate by year-end 2015: 3.6%Unemployment rate by year-end 2016: 3.5%
Spillover from growth in the greater Boston area is boosting population growth in New Hampshire, spurring housing construction, retail, food service, health care and other consumer services.
2015 Rankings – States With the Fastest Job Growth
10. South Carolina
Kiplinger forecasts the rate of job growth in every state annually. These states were projected to have the fastest employment growth in 2015.
2014 Rankings – States With the Fastest Job Growth
1. North Dakota
10. South Dakota
Kiplinger forecasts the rate of job growth in every state annually. These states were projected to have the fastest employment growth in 2014.
David is both staff economist and reporter for The Kiplinger Letter, overseeing Kiplinger forecasts for the U.S. and world economies. Previously, he was senior principal economist in the Center for Forecasting and Modeling at IHS/GlobalInsight, and an economist in the Chief Economist's Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce. David has co-written weekly reports on economic conditions since 1992, and has forecasted GDP and its components since 1995, beating the Blue Chip Indicators forecasts two-thirds of the time. David is a Certified Business Economist as recognized by the National Association for Business Economics. He has two master's degrees and is ABD in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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