The Midwest continued to be the best place for job-seekers last month, according to data recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The states in the center of the country had an average unemployment rate of 7.2 percent in April, better than any other region and significantly lower than the national rate of 8.1 percent.
Driving the Midwest's low jobless numbers was North Dakota's unemployment rate of 3 percent. The western part of North Dakota is experiencing an oil boom that has produced thousands of jobs in the construction, trade and transportation, and professional services sectors, helping keep the state's unemployment numbers enviably low. Even in April 2011, the jobless rate was only slightly higher, at 3.4 percent.
And other states in the Midwest are also going strong: Nebraska and South Dakota last month had jobless rates of 3.9 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively. Rounding out the list of the states with the lowest unemployment levels in April are Vermont at 4.6 percent, and Oklahoma and New Hampshire, both at 5 percent.
Other states, of course, continue to struggle. Nevada, which was perhaps the state hardest hit by the collapse of the housing bubble, had an unemployment rate of 11.7 percent last month, down from 13.6 percent in April 2011. Some of this improvement comes from job gains in the educational and health services, professional services, and trade and transportation sectors. Much of the change, however, can be attributed to a declining labor force, as people either stop looking for work or leave the state.
As in Nevada, California's jobless numbers are high, but improving: 10.9 percent last month vs. 11.8 percent the same month last year. California's labor force, however, is growing, as are its education and health services and professional services sectors.
Rhode Island, on the other hand, has continued to struggle with high unemployment all year -- last month it had a jobless rate of 11.2 percent, even with the April 2011 level.
Other numbers of note: the state with the most improved unemployment rate was Michigan, which jumped from 10.5 percent unemployment in April 2011 to 8.3 percent last month.
The state that added the most jobs was Texas, with a gain of 225,800 positions. But because Texas is so large, that job growth amounted to just a 2.1 percent increase. The greatest percentage increase in jobs -- 7.2 percent -- occurred in none other than North Dakota, where employment jumped from 388,800 to 416,600.
Oh, and if you're considering relocating to North Dakota for work, here's some useful information.