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What happens when your home state goes from having the best job market in the nation…to the worst?

Just five years ago, Nevada was the state with the best economic conditions for workers, according to a study released last week. Now it’s dead last.

Unsurprisingly, other states that boomed in the real-estate bubble — Florida, California and Arizona — joined the Silver State at the bottom of the state-by-state mid-year employment rankings published by the business news site and American City Business Journals.

Florida fell from the No. 2 spot for employment prospects in 2005 to No. 49 in this year's report, which ranks the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on factors such as unemployment rates and changes in private-sector job counts. California took a slightly less drastic hit, dropping from No. 11 to second to last, right above Nevada. Arizona went from No. 3 a half-decade ago to No. 44.

Unlike these other cellar-dwelling states in the employment ratings, Michigan has spent plenty of time at the bottom. The state, which has suffered from an imploding economy for years, was ranked dead last from 2005 to 2009, according to It now stands in 48th place, above only Nevada, California and Florida.

If you're looking for work in any of the newly-fallen states — and if you're unwilling or unable to move to where conditions might be better — is there anything you can do to improve your chances? Granted, the longer you've been unemployed the more inadequate any suggestion might feel, but here's some advice from John Challenger, CEO of outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas:

  • Expand your search as widely as possible. “If you can’t expand it geographically, then you have to expand it in the kind of job you might be willing to take to give yourself opportunity,” Challenger says. Examine your expertise, and be open to moving to a different industry.
  • Be open to companies of all sizes. “It pays, especially in a tight job market, to be open to any type of company, large or small,” he says.
  • Take a part-time job. Even if it's not in your field, you might be able to bring in extra money while you continue your search. “Some people think it hurts them if they do a job no longer current or right in their area of expertise, but I think that’s false,” Challenger says.

For those who live in a state such as Michigan, where the economy has stayed weak over several years, Challenger recommends long-distance commuting as an option. “A lot of people open up their search by commuting — it’s a way of going where the jobs are,” he says. Another option would be to start your own business, so long as it’s realistically viable. One possibility is setting up an online business, so you can rely on customers in other areas where the economy is better.

If you live in any of these battered states, has anything proved helpful? If you live elsewhere, what advice would you give?

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