By Eric Morath
Looking for a job? Head west.
Of the 10 states with the fastest employment growth over the past year, nine are west of the Mississippi.
Payrolls in Idaho grew 3% in June compared to a year earlier, the strongest gain of any state, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Following the “famous potatoes” state are Texas, Colorado and North Dakota, whose total employment all advanced better than 2.5% in June from a year earlier. Payrolls nationwide grew 1.7% over that period.
Every state but Alaska added jobs over the past year, but many at a much slower pace. In Maine, payrolls increased 0.1%. The gain was just 0.3% in Ohio. Wyoming bucked the western trend, with employment there advancing just 0.3% as well.
Some states, particularly North Dakota and Texas, are benefiting from a booming energy industry.
Growth elsewhere was more broad-based. Idaho saw solid improvement for jobs in the trade, transportation and utility and education and health services categories.
Those gains helped push down the unemployment rate in Idaho to 6.4% in June, compared to 6.9% a year earlier. The national unemployment rate was 7.6% last month. The July reading for the U.S. will be released August 2.
North Dakota remained the state with the lowest unemployment, a tiny 3.1% in June. Nebraska was the next-lowest at 4%, followed by Vermont at 4.4%.
The states with the highest unemployment rates are Nevada at 9.6%, Illinois at 9.2% and Mississippi at 9%. The good news for Nevadans and Mississippians is that payrolls in those states have grown faster than the national average during the past year.
That’s not the case in Illinois. Payrolls in that state advanced 0.8% from June 2012.
The Labor Department issued the state-level employment report on Thursday afternoon, ahead of the scheduled Friday morning release. The department inadvertently loaded tables containing the data to its public website on Thursday morning. To ensure equal access to the information, the department made the full report available early, spokesman Gary Steinberg said.