As the U.S. job market continues to get back on track after the recession, Utah has emerged as one of the best places to find work. The Southeast, meanwhile, continues to struggle.
The neighboring Utah cities of Provo and Orem ranked first in a new index of the nation's 150 most dynamic labor markets around the U.S., while Salt Lake City ranked fourth. Utah was the only state to have two regions in the top five of the new index, from job services firm CareerBuilder. Among the things going for the state are a low unemployment rate, a booming tech sector and the fast growth of high-quality jobs, according to researchers.
Many of the nation's best labor markets are seeing significant growth in "STEM" -- science, technology, engineering and math -- fields. So-called knowledge jobs, which can include teachers or lawyers, are also prevalent in these areas.
Here are the 10 top labor markets, along with the local jobless rate, according to CareerBuilder.
- Provo-Orem, Utah (3 percent)
- Houston - The Woodlands - Sugar Land, Texas (4.5 percent)
- Raleigh, North Carolina (4.3 percent)
- Salt Lake City, Utah (3.2 percent)
- Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Arkansas-Missouri (3.9 percent)
- Austin-Round Rock, Texas. (3.9 percent)
- Port St. Lucie, Florida (6.4 percent)
- Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-North Carolina (7.4 percent)
- Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida (5.3 percent)
- Lafayette, Louisiana (4.9 percent)
The unemployment rate isn't the only thing researchers looked at in compiling the index. They also factored in the quality of the jobs in a region and how well they pay. They looked at job-wanted ads to get a sense of future labor market conditions.
"We know the economy is improving nationwide, but the index helps identify regions and cities driving the recovery, as well as those struggling to rebound," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder, in announcing the index. "Metros with low unemployment and growth in good-paying occupations are ranked high, as well as metros projected to grow through the end of the decade and currently seeing new job openings on the rise."
Researchers found common traits in communities that ranked near the bottom. The regions did not recover quickly from the recession. In fact, some of them continued to lose jobs even after the recession technically ended in the summer of 2009.
Here are the nation's five most sluggish labor markets, according to the index:
- Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida, (6.1 percent)
- Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, North Carolina (5.6 percent)
- Tallahassee, Florida (5.2 percent)
- Wichita, Kansas (4.8 percent)
- Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana (6.8 percent)
Those regions saw severe job losses across several key industries, including manufacturing, real estate and government.