From the WSJ:
The latest employment report gave more discouraging news to laid-off workers and new college graduates, as the jobless rate rose last month to 8.9%. But despite the gloom, economists say the pain isn’t evenly spread throughout the nation and in some industries, jobs were added.
“There’s a misconception that [unemployment] is the same across the country,” says Robert P. Hartwig, an economist in New York and president of the Insurance Information Institute.
But in many cases, geography matters. For example, while the jobless rate in Indiana and California is above 10%, the jobless rate is below 5% in North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota. There, industries like agriculture, oil production, mining, medical technologies, retail trade and tourism have fueled steady employment. Unemployment is also less of a problem in these states and some others because they haven’t been affected as much by the recent housing crisis and financial-market meltdown, says Harry Holzer, a professor at Georgetown University and former chief economist at the Labor Department. Local home prices didn’t skyrocket and these states aren’t home to many large financial-services companies.
Of course, some states are grappling with heavy unemployment because they have relied for many years on a particular industry that is now declining — the most obvious example is Michigan and its auto-heavy economy.
“They basically have legacy issues,” says Mr. Hartwig. As a result, he says “some areas will be mired in recession for a lot longer than others.”
Others, though, will be building up their employment base. Mr. Hartwig suggests the laid-off — particularly those willing to change careers or those just starting out — consider looking for work in states where employers are investing heavily in high-growth industries, such as alternative energy and biotechnology. They could offer some of the best employment prospects over the next few years, he says, much in the way that Silicon Valley became a hotbed for Web technology in the early 1980s.
In North Carolina, for example, the unemployment rate is currently above the national average at 10.8%. But it is also where big pharmaceutical companies Novartis Corp. and Merck & Co. are building new biomanufacturing plants. For professionals with engineering and chemistry backgrounds, North Carolina might offer more opportunity, despite the current situation.
Still, Mr. Holzer doesn’t advocate relocating to a state simply because it has a low jobless rate today. “You’d also want to look at employment growth rates over time for specific occupations,” he says. You can find such information in the Bureau of Labor’s Occupational Outlook report at www.bls.gov/oco/.
If you’re willing to relocate for a job at your own expense, be sure to mention that in your cover letter to employers, says Julie Loubaton, director of recruiting at Consolidated Container Co., a manufacturer in Atlanta. “It could open you up for wider consideration,” she says. “Many companies will automatically exclude you from consideration by virtue of wanting to find people who are local.”
Of course, relocating isn’t feasible for everyone. But there are industries less affected by regional trends, such as government and health care. In April, employers in these sectors added 72,000 and 17,000 jobs, respectively.
To be sure, some of these recently filled positions are low paying and/or short term. But they could potentially serve as a stopgap for laid-off workers.
For example, the U.S. Census Bureau hired 140,000 temporary workers earlier this year to update the nation’s mailing list. Applications for some 1.4 million more of these short-term positions will be accepted starting in the fall, says a spokesman for the government agency. The jobs last for up to 10 weeks and pay hourly wages that vary by location. In Indianapolis, census takers earn $11.25 an hour; in Santa Ana, Calif., they’re paid $17 an hour.
Meanwhile, in the health-care sector, demand for home-health aides is growing rapidly, as the population ages and health systems look to limit hospital stays to curb rising insurance costs, says Jim Frye, managing partner at Execuseek International LLC, a search firm in Red Bank, N.J.
As an example, he points to client Meridian at Home, which — in addition to regular openings for therapists, nurses and billing specialists — hired 67 home-health aides in the first quarter and expects to hire up to 70 more between now and June. Meridian has five locations in central New Jersey and offers a free, three-week, certification-training program for home-health aides. Live-in aides earn $110 a day, plus room and board, while visiting aides start at $9.50 an hour and may be eligible to receive health, vacation and other benefits, says Dawn Jacobson, manager of recruitment and quality.
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