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The longest and shortest commutes in the country

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Getting to and from work can be a chore for many Americans. The lucky ones get a short drive on the highway or a brisk walk to the office. But for others, the commute can mean snail-paced traffic or long waits for buses or trains.

Perhaps no city has it worse than New York. It's the only big city in which workers must commute more than an hour each day, according to a recent study from the New York Comptroller's office.

Add that to the longer-than-average hours New Yorkers put into the job, and the result is brutal. Full-time workers in the city spend an average of 49.1 hours a week working or commuting, which is the longest combined workweek in the country.

Some researchers think shorter commutes lead to massive spikes in happiness. Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow who researched some of the happiest places on earth for a five-year study, thinks that cutting an hour from each way of your commute is the happiness equivalent of a $40,000 annual raise. It makes that much of a difference.

Where in the country are people making a long slog to work? Where do workers have it relatively easy? The answers can be found in data from the 2013 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Click ahead to see the states with the longest and shortest commutes.

Longest - 5: Massachusetts

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Mean travel time to work: 28.6 minutes

Residents of the state are so grumpy about their commutes that they have called on state lawmakers to ride public transit themselves to experience the misery. And dozens of them did earlier this month, according to WBUR.

"It was, when I say jammed, there was no place to move," one state representative told the radio station. Other lawmakers complained that their trains were late and that no one collected fares.

Longest - 4: Washington D.C.

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Mean travel time to work: 29.9 minutes

The District of Columbia has the highest rate of out-of-state commuters, with 25.2 percent of its working residents traveling to Virginia, Maryland and other states to work, according to the Census Bureau.

A high percentage of people are going the opposite direction as well. Some 72.4 percent of the people working in D.C. live outside the district.

Longest - 3: New Jersey

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Mean travel time to work: 30.9 minutes

New Jersey has been scrambling to find money for its Transportation Trust Fund, and business leaders are unhappy that the state's infrastructure is not getting more attention.

"Lanes are being shut down," wrote the president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce in a recent newspaper editorial. "Traffic is continuing to build up at an ever-increasing rate. Mass transit service cancellations and delays have become a regular part of our commutes."

Longest - 2: New York

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Mean travel time to work: 32.1 minutes

The long commute times in New York City certainly impacted the statewide mean of 32.1 minutes. Getting to work just became harder financially for residents as well. A broad transit fare hike went into effect earlier this month that covers subway, bus and rail fares and tolls.

Longest - 1: Maryland


Mean travel time to work: 32.5 minutes

Maryland's commute is awful mainly because of cross-county commuting, reports the Baltimore Business Journal. Nearly half of the state's commuters cross county borders to get to work.

Baltimore's infrastructure is old and requires constant maintenance, creating regular traffic jams.

Shortest - 5: Nebraska


Mean travel time to work: 18.1 minutes

Commuting in the Midwest isn't easy for everyone. Decades of migration out of the Midwest's manufacturing centers have depleted jobs in some cities, Bloomberg reports. One information systems manager in Nebraska had a 90-mile commute before getting an engineering job in his hometown.

Now, the state is trying to recruit students and others to businesses in its small towns, hoping to revitalize areas that have been stagnant.

Shortest - 4: Montana


Mean travel time to work: 18 minutes

For most residents, the Montana commute is a piece of cake. But for others, the oil boom has turned the traditional commute on its head.

One Montana man travels 580 miles one way by plane to work on the oil fields of North Dakota, NPR reports. North Dakota offered jobs galore to residents in Montana and other surrounding states as the oil rush peaked. But many people don't want to move their families, so they decided commute to North Dakota for a work schedule that often means two or three weeks on the clock and one week off.

Shortest - 3: North Dakota


Mean travel time to work: 17.9 minutes

Residents in North Dakota can be a little picky about the jobs they take and the commutes that come with them. The state has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, with only 2.8 percent of the workforce without a job in January.

Credit the oil boom for the rapid growth of the state's industries. The influx of cash has also allowed the state to keep up a robust infrastructure, which keeps the traffic flowing and the commute times down.

Shortest - 2: Wyoming


Mean travel time to work: 17.5 minutes

Wyoming is the least populated state, and ranks second to Alaska for low population density. There were only 5.8 people per square mile in the state in 2010.

So it's probably safe to say that drivers in Wyoming aren't often dealing with traffic congestion and packed roads.

Shortest - 1: South Dakota

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Mean travel time to work: 17 minutes

While its neighbor to the north has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, South Dakota comes in second, with only 3.4 percent of the labor force unemployed.

The region could see dramatic changes, however, if oil prices remain at the lows they plunged to over the last year. Drillers could shut down operations, leaving more people looking elsewhere for jobs. Commute times could rise as a result.

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