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by SixFigureStart | May 12, 2009


Last week we told you that despite rising unemployment numbers -- up from 8.5% to 8.9% in April -- the pace of job losses has slowed considerably, with some analysts wondering if the recession has finally bottomed out. That's not to say that the hard times are over by any stretch, but there appear to be other reasons for optimism out there.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting similar news today, attempting to break from a common misconception that unemployment is the same across the country, according to New York economist and Insurance Information Institute president Robert P. Hartwig. In many cases, geography influences the rate of unemployment. North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota all have unemployment rates below 5%, thanks to industries like agriculture, oil, mining, medical technologies, retail and tourism that have fueled development. These states are also less affected by the housing crisis and market disasters that have factored into high unemployment in urban centers. Still, in other states, unemployment numbers are skewed to the heavy side because of reliance on a particular industry, with Michigan as the prime example.

If you've been laid off, now is the time to be thinking about possibly moving to a state with high growth potential. Obviously you shouldn't jump into a move based solely on a low unemployment rate, as this is subject to change at any time. Rather, look around at places where employers are investing in high-growth industries. The WSJ article cites North Carolina as an example. The unemployment rate there has actually reached double digits -- currently 10.8%, well above the national average -- but major pharmaceutical companies are building new biomanufacturing plants in the Tar Heel State. If you've got a background in chemistry or engineering, North Carolina may provide you with opportunities, even though the numbers are currently bleak.

The key, according to Georgetown Professor and former Labor Department chief economist Harry Holzer, is to "Look at employment growth rates over time for specific occupations." If you are willing to relocate for a job, be sure to note that fact somewhere on your cover letter, as this will make you a more viable candidate. If you can't or won't relocate, the article notes, look for opportunities in industries less affected by regional trends, even if they only serve as a short-term solution to help you back from your layoff.

There's nothing that can be done to hide the bleak (and yea, ultimately rising) unemployment numbers. However, there remains opportunity as we wait out the darkness and hope for better times. It's all about using what you have to get what you need.

See you and me
Have a better time than most can dream
Have it better than the best
So we can pull on through
Whatever tears at us
Whatever holds us down
And if nothing can be done
We'll make the best of what's around

--Posted by Steven Schiff, Assistant Producer