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10 States With Biggest Rate of Job Growth in 2013

Look for job growth across the nation to average about the same in 2013 as in 2012 -- about 2.1 million new jobs over the year. The unemployment rate, at 7.8% in December 2012, is expected to end 2013 around 7.5%.

These 10 states will see the largest percentage gains in employment, each above the national average, expected to be 2% this year. Most are growing quickly to try and catch up from still-depressed levels of employment. Others -- Utah, Texas and Idaho, for example -- have already seen significant employment increases since the recession and are well into expansion.

Gains will be spread unevenly, however, with Western and Southern states generally seeing above-average growth, and those in the Northeast plus some Prairie states lagging behind. But all 50 states are expected to see at least some growth in 2013 as the economy continues to rebuild after the Great Recession.

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1. Utah

Pace of 2013 job growth: 3.5%

Total number of jobs likely to be added: 43,965

Population: 2,855,287

Unemployment rate (Dec. 2012): 5.2%

2012 job growth: 3%

An expanding number of high-tech jobs is keeping Utah among states with the fastest gains. That’s thanks to companies such as Adobe, which just completed building a new facility south of Salt Lake City. The complex will house 1,100 employees, and it’s just the first of three such building projects planned for Utah by the software company. Microsoft is expanding in the northern Utah Valley -- while eBay and Oracle anchor growth in the southern Salt Lake Valley. Scores of smaller tech companies are also adding jobs in the Beehive State. The Utah governor’s office estimates that all of the 90,000 jobs lost since 2007 have already been recovered, so continued gains put Utah well ahead of many other states.

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2. Nevada

Pace of 2013 job growth: 2.7%

Total number of jobs likely to be added: 31,050

Population: 2,758,931

Unemployment rate (Dec. 2012): 10.2%

2012 job growth: 1.7%

Although Nevada will rank among states experiencing the swiftest employment gains in 2013, the total number of jobs added won’t be very impressive. Why? The Great Recession and accompanying crash in the housing market hit the Silver State especially hard, with total job losses from March 2007 to November 2010 approaching 182,000 -- nearly 14% of the state’s entire prerecession payroll count. As late as December 2012, Nevada was tied with Rhode Island for the highest unemployment rate in the U.S., at 10.2%.

In the past 24 months, however, Nevada businesses have created almost 35,000 new positions, with health services, education and mining companies expected to add more jobs this year. Companies such as Zappos, Apple, Urban Outfitters, NOW Foods, Xtreme Green Products, Romotive and Ameriprise Financial are all expanding in the state.

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3. Hawaii

Pace of 2013 job growth: 2.7%

Total number of jobs likely to be added: 16,200

Population: 1,392,313

Unemployment rate (Dec. 2012): 5.2%

2012 job growth: 2%

A rebounding U.S. economy and optimism for growth in Japan’s economy bode well for Hawaii and its tourism-dominated workforce. Visitor arrivals are expected to increase nearly 5.5% this year, with average spending by tourists likely to climb 7% over last year’s levels.

That will add up to more jobs at hotels, restaurants and retail stores plus companies such as Hawaiian Airlines. Its aggressive expansion of service to Asia is expected to add 1,000 jobs over the next five years. A prolonged federal government shutdown or extra-deep cuts in spending by Uncle Sam would threaten the island state’s sunny forecast, though: About 28% of Hawaii’s workforce earn paychecks from federal, state and local governments.

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4. South Carolina

Pace of 2013 job growth: 2.5%

Total number of jobs likely to be added: 47,300

Population: 4,723,723

Unemployment rate (Dec. 2012): 8.4%

2012 job growth: 2.1%

Automobile-related manufacturing will drive job growth in the Palmetto State this year. Since January 2011, South Carolina has added more than 8,000 jobs in automotive-related companies -- parts makers, tire manufacturers and material providers, for example. Spurred by the companies’ proximity to large auto manufacturers operating in the state (BMW and Honda) as well as in nearby Alabama and Tennessee (Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan), job growth will continue this year. Michelin North America, Japanese parts maker JTEKT Automotive and German firm Schaeffler Group, for example, all plan expansions.

But that’s not all: Google is doubling its presence in the state, boosting South Carolina’s currency as a high-tech destination. And Time Warner looks to hire more than 600 workers this year.

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5. Colorado

Pace of 2013 job growth: 2.5%

Total number of jobs likely to be added: 56,900

Population: 5,187,582

Unemployment rate (Dec. 2012): 7.6%

2012 job growth: 2.3%

Education services, construction and manufacturing employment are on the rise. Indeed, all but one industrial sector -- information -- will continue to add jobs this year, as they did last. By the end of the year, that will put the state within spitting distance of its peak employment level -- 2.4 million -- reached in April 2008.

Two particular employers to watch: Visa is adding more than 400 new jobs outside Denver. And Kaiser Permanente will expand its Englewood campus, adding 500 information technology positions in the Centennial State. Colorado is one of only a handful of states that have consistently outperformed the national average in job growth since employment bottomed out in early 2010, growing a total of 4.1% in the past 32 months.

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6. Idaho

Pace of 2013 job growth: 2.4%

Total number of jobs likely to be added: 15,000

Population: 1,595,728

Unemployment rate (Dec. 2012): 6.6%

2012 job growth: 2.2%

Idaho is clawing its way back from a loss of more than 50,000 jobs during the recession with the help of gains in the education and health services sectors. They added a combined 4,600 new jobs last year and will continue to grow in 2013. Employment in the leisure and hospitality industries and information services are also on the rise in the Gem State. Food manufacturing jobs will climb -- tapping into the third-largest dairy producing state. New York-based Chobani just opened a Greek yogurt production facility in Twin Falls, bringing as many as 500 jobs to the state. Milk, cheese and ice cream makers are following suit.

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7. Florida

Pace of 2013 job growth: 2.4%

Total number of jobs likely to be added: 175,985

Population: 19,317,568

Unemployment rate (Dec. 2012): 8%

2012 job growth: 0.8%

The Sunshine State is just starting its turnaround in employment. So far, it has replaced only about a quarter of the total jobs lost during the recession. Last year’s only bright spot -- the leisure and hospitality industries -- will continue to add jobs in 2013 as the improving national economy translates into more vacation spending.

The fastest-growing industry for the state this year will be construction, as residential home building finally turns a corner. Plagued by a huge overhang of homes somewhere along the foreclosure pipeline, the housing industry was battered in recent years. Now, home prices are expected to rise and building is starting to pick up again. Look for business services and education and health services to also show quick growth in 2013.

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8. Texas

Pace of 2013 job growth: 2.3%

Total number of jobs likely to be added: 247,850

Population: 26,059,203

Unemployment rate (Dec. 2012): 6.1%

2012 job growth: 2.5%

With the help of an expanding energy sector, Texas has already regained all of the jobs lost in the recession. This year, it will enjoy an additional 2.3% expansion in its workforce, just a slightly slower growth rate than in 2012. Among the large job-adding projects under way in Texas: Southwest Airlines will create 1,000 positions at its new Dallas headquarters; Ericsson will expand in Plano, adding 1,600 jobs; and Apple plans to hire 3,600 additional workers as it increases the size of its Austin facilities.

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9. North Carolina

Pace of 2013 job growth: 2.1%

Total number of jobs likely to be added: 84,740

Population: 9,752,073

Unemployment rate (Dec. 2012): 9.2%

2012 job growth: 2.6%

Hard hit during the Great Recession, North Carolina’s employment will grow swiftly this year. But North Carolina has a long way to climb to recover peak employment of 4.2 million, reached in February 2008. Unemployment in the Tar Heel State hit a record 11.4% in February 2010.

Employment gains in North Carolina will be widespread -- with 10 out of 14 nonfarm sectors in the state registering gains this year. The largest will come in manufacturing, retail and, surprisingly, government.

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10. Arizona

Pace of 2013 job growth: 2.1%

Total number of jobs likely to be added: 50,925

Population: 6,553,255

Unemployment rate (Dec. 2012): 7.9%

2012 job growth: 2.7%

Though the pace of job growth in Arizona will slow this year, the state will continue to be among the fastest gainers in the nation -- as it has been for more than three decades. In the 17 years prior to the recession, Arizona racked up an impressive average annual employment growth of 3.6%, thanks to robust population growth. That compares with a national average of just 1.4% over the same period. Still, Arizona has regained only about 35% of the 314,000 jobs lost in the recession.

In the coming year, Arizona will see a pickup in jobs in the health care, leisure, hospitality, transportation and warehousing industries. Construction will also increase this year, with a rebound in home building. Job creators in the Grand Canyon State this year will include Illinois-based insurer State Farm, which is building a regional hub that will add thousands of jobs in Phoenix, and USAA, which is expanding its north Phoenix facility, with plans to add 1,000 workers in finance, supporting the military-oriented company’s insurance, banking and investment business.