Seven of the 10 states with the fastest job growth this year are expected to be in the West.
Go west, young job-seeker.
Seven of the 10 states with the fastest job growth this year will be in the West, as the region benefits from a stronger housing recovery and continued gains in its bread-and-butter energy, technology and tourism industries, according to forecasts by IHS Global Insight.
The states, which generally led the nation with rapid payroll increases last year, as well, are North Dakota, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Oregon.
The West was a hotbed of population and job growth for decades after World War II, but some states in the region were hit harder by the housing downturn than the rest of the country and were slower to rebound early in the recovery.
Now that states such as Arizona and Nevada have worked through most of their home foreclosures, residential construction is rebounding sharply, spawning thousands of new jobs, economists say. Many Western states, however, still trail the nation in recouping jobs lost in the recession.
"It was down so far, and the housing market has finally stabilized," says Richard Wobbekind, head of business research at University of Colorado, Boulder.
Other factors are also at work. North Dakota and Texas are riding an oil boom after largely avoiding the recession's most punishing blows. Colorado and Utah, while enjoying a surge in oil and natural gas drilling, are also now high-tech centers helping satisfy Americans' appetite for mobile devices and applications.
Oregon is a semiconductor manufacturing hub. In Arizona, job growth is being fueled by a technology base that includes Apple's new 2,000-employee glass factory in Mesa, as well as surging tourism, now that rising household wealth is spurring more consumer spending.
As technology increasingly allows Americans to work remotely, the entire Western region is drawing more residents from other states who want to live amid scenic mountains and enjoy a better quality of life, says IHS economist Jim Diffley.
"They're just progressive, attractive places to live," Diffley says.
During the recovery's early days, migration to the West was limited by the large number of Americans who couldn't move because they owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth, says economist Chris Lafakis of Moody's Analytics. But the stock of so-called underwater homes has fallen dramatically.
Home buyers are also finding it easier to qualify for mortgages, allowing them to pick up stakes. Many older Americans are finally feeling that their nest-egg investments are secure enough for them to move to retirement havens in the West.
"We expect 2014 to be the year when in-migration (to western states) picks up a lot," Lafakis says.
That will increase the need for local services and jobs.