Although many economists predict a downturn in the job market over the next year, more than half of workers (56 percent) are likely to look for a job within that same timeframe, Bankrate’s 2023 job seeker survey found.

With unemployment recently at its lowest level in decades, the tight labor market has given many workers the confidence to do things like switch jobs as well as seek increased pay and more work flexibility.

A significant number of Americans either sought or experienced changes in the workplace over the past year, according to Bankrate’s job seeker study. The survey broke down, by region, the percentage of workers in the past year who either got a new job, relocated for a job, quit a job, were laid off from a job, asked for more work flexibility or asked for a raise at work, as follows:

  • Westerners: 61 percent
  • Southerners: 55 percent
  • Northeasterners: 53 percent
  • Midwesterners: 43 percent

The job market remains highly dynamic, but it’s also in transition. There’s still an elevated number of job openings, higher than before the pandemic but down from the peak. The fact of the matter is that we have an increased number of people losing their jobs.

— Mark HamrickBankrate senior economic analyst

Key job market statistics

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  • The five most in-demand jobs in the U.S. are registered nurse (average salary of $88,828), truck driver (average salary of $69,114), shift manager (average salary of $71,245), delivery driver (average salary of $81,828) and owner-operator driver who manages a truck-driving business (average salary of $142,919).
  • The fastest-growing occupations include nurse practitioners, wind turbine service technicians and data scientists, which are projected to grow by 46 percent, 44 percent and 36 percent, respectively, by the year 2031.
  • Around one in five (21 percent) job seekers reported a flexible working arrangement (i.e., working remotely) as a motivator for wanting a new job.
  • Currently, the state with the highest unemployment rate is Nevada (5.5 percent), while the state with the lowest unemployment rate is South Dakota (1.9 percent).
  • North Dakota, Utah, Idaho, South Dakota and Iowa have been designated the five best states for work-life balance, when factoring in average hours worked, commute times, childcare costs and overall happiness of residents.

Sources: Indeed, McKinsey & Company’s 2022 American Opportunity Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lensa’s American Work-Life Balance Index

New jobs, relocations, and resignations by region

The likelihood of workers making job changes tends to vary among regions in the United States. Bankrate’s job seeker survey found that:

  • Workers in the West (36 percent) and the Northeast (34 percent) are more likely to quit a job in the next 12 months than those in the South (27 percent) and Midwest (23 percent).
  • Northeasterners (33 percent) are most likely to relocate for a job in the next 12 months, followed by Westerners (29 percent), Southerners (26 percent) and Midwesterners (17 percent).
  • Nearly half of Midwesterners (53 percent) are unlikely to search for a new job in the next 12 months, compared to 42 percent of Northeasterners, 42 percent of Southerners and 41 percent of Westerners.

“Going back to the dark days of the pandemic, there was a tendency for many people to migrate, some of which was associated with the ability to work remotely,” Hamrick says. “Plenty of evidence pointed to people exiting the state of California, some of the high-cost markets along the West Coast, since people were seeking housing affordability and a more optimal mix of cost of living and pay. To some extent that has also been true for moves out of the Northeast, particularly in New York and some surrounding high-tax states where housing affordability can be a challenge. Florida has been a beneficiary of this movement.”

Factors such as home affordability, job market and culture can affect whether people are willing to leave their current home and relocate to another.

While Bankrate’s 2023 job seeker survey found that Southerners and Midwesterners are the least likely to relocate for a job in the next 12 months, a 2019 Robert Half study found that residents in several large cities in those regions were actually among those with the most workers who would consider relocating.

This shift in workers who are likely to relocate between 2019 and 2023 may be indicative of the fact that since the pandemic, more Americans have gained the ability to work from home in the city of their choice, regardless of where their employer is based.

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of non-homeowners who eventually want to own a home cited affordability problems as reasons for not owning a home yet. Such problems include not having enough income (46 percent), home prices being too high (42 percent) and the inability to afford a down payment and closing costs (40 percent). The affordability factor can play a role in people’s choice not to relocate to less-affordable regions, such as the West Coast and parts of the northern United States.

Regions worried about job security

Predictions that the unemployment rate will surge to 4.6 percent in one year have some Americans concerned about the possibility of job loss. Significant percentages of Northeasterners and Westerners (40 percent and 36 percent, respectively) are worried about job security, compared to 32 percent of Southerners and 25 percent of Midwesterners, Bankrate found.

One reason those in the West and Northeast may be more worried about job security is that labor markets aren’t as tight in some states in those regions. For instance, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Montana have experienced declines in job openings, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Conversely, the tightest labor markets existed in Wisconsin, Louisiana and North Dakota, meaning those states experienced a greater excess demand for labor — caused by an increase in job openings combined with a decrease in the labor force, according to the 2022 St. Louis Fed report.

Comparing Bankrate’s 2023 job seeker survey to its 2022 Pay Raise survey reveals that workers nationwide are less worried now about job security than they were last year.

The most significant recent job losses have been in the tech and financial sectors, Bankrate’s Hamrick says, adding that job layoffs, combined with the damaging effects of inflation and elevated risk of recession, make job security top of mind for many consumers.

“Along with the ongoing elevated risks of recession, with the evolution of globalization, technology and now emerging artificial intelligence, there’s anxiety about the outlook for job security,” Hamrick says. “We’re living in a time of rapid change, and as businesses and consumer behaviors evolve, it leads to disruption, which can be a source of job loss as well as opportunity.”

For consumers who are worried about job security or other potential loss in income, it’s important to have enough in a savings account to cover at least three months’ worth of living expenses.

Regions that prioritize work-life balance

A common factor workers consider when thinking about a new job is work-life balance, or the amount of time you’ll spend doing your job compared to the amount of time you’ll have left over to devote to things like family time, hobbies and relaxation.

Prioritization of work-life balance tends to vary from region to region, Bankrate’s job seeker survey found, as follows:

  • Those in the Midwest (34 percent) reported being less likely than other regions to ask for more work flexibility in the next 12 months.
  • In all, 30 percent said the most important job factor for them was the quality of work-life balance, which includes things like flexible working hours, working remotely or having more vacation time.
  • Southern and Western workers (both 32 percent) are more likely to value work-life balance factors than Northeasterners (24 percent).

The best state for work-life balance is North Dakota, according to Lensa’s work-life balance study, which ranked the upper-Midwestern state well for its relatively low weekly working hours and a short commute time of less than 18 minutes. Other states that Lensa ranked well for work-life balance included Utah, Idaho, South Dakota and Iowa.

“There’s no question the changes associated with the pandemic have given the world new opportunities for remote work and work-life balance,” Bankrate’s Hamrick says. “What isn’t known is what the long-term outlook is for these issues. An increased number of managers are trying to draw people back to the office more often. How this is going to settle or further evolve remains to be seen.”

A 2022 report by SHRM Global Culture Research found that among workers who were actively searching for a new job, 60 percent said they currently lack work-life balance. According to job search website The Muse, one company that offers its employees a healthy work-life balance is Capital One, which provides on-campus fitness facilities, cafés and onsite health services, as well as LGBTQ+ friendly benefits.

Some companies that offer employees the best work-life balance, according to consulting company Buildremote, include Shopify, Instacart, Zillow, REI, Netflix, Uber, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Meta (Facebook) and PayPal. Buildremote defines companies devoted to work-life balance as those that offer options including remote work, a four-day workweek, unlimited paid time off, paid sabbaticals and maternity leave, and a 401(k) match plan.

According to Zippia research, the majority (89 percent) of human resources professionals surveyed saw an increase in employee retention after implementing flexible work policies.

Job market FAQs

  • Also known as a labor market, a job market is the environment in which workers seek jobs and companies seek employees.

  • The fastest growing occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, include nurse practitioners, wind turbine service technicians, restaurant cooks, data scientists, athletes and sports competitors, and information security analysts.

  • Jobs that are currently in demand include registered nurses, truck drivers, shift managers, sales representatives, restaurant managers, dental assistants, insurance agents and service technicians, according to job search site Indeed.

  • A remote job is one that can be performed from your home. Some companies allow employees to work entirely from home, while others prefer a hybrid arrangement in which employees come into the office on certain days and work from home on others. Sites you can use to find remote jobs include FlexJobs and We Work Remotely. Many companies that offer some work-from-home jobs will identify those job openings as “remote” on their job openings webpage.