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Where The Best Paying Jobs Are (#GotBitcoin?)

To determine the overall hottest and coldest labor markets, We looked at the 53 metro areas with more than 1 million people. Where The Paying Best Jobs Are (#GotBitcoin?)

A Look At The 10 Hottest And Coldest Labor Markets In The U.S.

The ranking is based on five attributes: average unemployment rate in 2018; labor-force participation rate in 2018; the change in employment and change in labor force for the fourth quarter of 2018 from a year earlier; and the change in average weekly wage in the first half of 2018 from the first half 2017, reflecting the latest available wage data. The area with the highest average ranking among the five categories was determined to be the hottest labor market. Moody’s Analytics provided the analysis of Labor Department data necessary for this report.

In This Oil Boom Town, Even a Barber Can Make $180,000

One of America’s hottest labor markets is in West Texas, where the brisket is scarce, the ‘man-camps’ are full, and oil workers with no time to spare pay $75 to skip the line at the barber shop.

West Texas has seen its share of oil booms, but the people there say this one is unlike any they’ve seen.

Driven by shale drilling, a gusher of crude production has transformed the Permian Basin into America’s hottest oilfield, turning what was a remote stretch of towns spread among mesquite trees and scrubland into an industrial zone, seemingly overnight.

Fortunes are being made in this fracking-related gold rush, and money and workers are flooding in. But many necessities in the area now cost a small fortune, creating opportunities for businesses selling everything from dipping tobacco to sand for fracking. It can be hard to get a haircut, grab a plate of good Texas barbecue, or find a table at a popular bar, because demand outstrips supply. Housing is scarce and hotel room prices sometimes rival those of New York City at more than $500 a night.

There are more than 300 metropolitan areas across the U.S. with fewer than 1 million people. The Midland-Odessa job market, in the heart of the fracking boom, was the hottest of all of them last year, according to our analysis. Among those metro areas, Midland had the fastest job and labor-force growth, and one of the lowest unemployment rates, a monthly average of 2.3% in 2018.

Oil prices have fallen about 25% since October to around $57 a barrel. But West Texas residents are hopeful the boom won’t go bust soon because companies have pumped billions into building out the oilfield, and drilling is not expected to peak for years.

The Permian produced an average of more than 3.9 million barrels per day as of January, according to the Energy Information Administration. Analytics firm IHS Markit estimates Permian production could top 5 million barrels a day in 2023, surpassing Iraq.

Here’s What A Modern-Day Boomtown Looks Like.

$180,000 For A Barber

Pete McGarity opened Headlines Barber Shop in Odessa in 1998 and has ridden the boom-bust cycle before. This time around he decided to capitalize on it.

In 2017, Mr. McGarity spent about $25,000 to retrofit a trailer into a custom, mobile barber shop. That October, he drove it about an hour west to Pecos, Texas, and parked in front of the town’s only grocery store, hoping to catch oil field workers between shifts. It was an instant success.

“It was crazy, it went berserk,” says Mr. McGarity, 48. “I’d show up around one o’clock and we’d cut until after midnight.”

These days Mr. McGarity sends the trailer to Pecos, which is closer to the oilfields, six days a week with five barbers, who cut hair all day long. A cut costs as much as $40, more than the $25 he charged before the boom. There is usually a long waiting list, but patrons can cut the line if they pay $60, or $75 with a shave, a popular option with oil workers.

“It is flooded with oilfield workers galore, and these guys tip well,” he says.

Mr. McGarity’s barbers are raking it in. Those who venture to Pecos can make anywhere from $130,000 to $180,000 per year, he said. He is considering investing in additional trailers to send to farther-flung towns in the oil patch and says the additional revenue may allow him to retire soon. If there’s a bust, he’ll just store the mobile shops until things come back, he adds.

By The Numbers: Headlines Barber Shop

$30 To $40 For A Haircut

$60 To Cut The Line

About 20 Haircuts Given Daily By Each Barber

$700 To $900 Made Daily By Each Barber

Brisket Shortage

If you’re hoping to get some brisket at Pody’s BBQ in Pecos, you’d better show up early. During the week, there are usually 30 or more oil field workers lined up outside the restaurant before it opens at 11 a.m., an unusual sight for the small town before the boom.

Israel Campos says he has doubled his sales since starting the restaurant in 2012. Mr. Campos, 44 years old, says he is lucky his staff is family members, because many restaurants in the area struggle to keep workers, who are lured away by higher paying oil industry jobs.

The oil hands waiting in line will often order for their co-workers, sometimes 10 plates at a time, according to Mr. Campos. Company men frequently call ahead with larger orders they bring to drilling rigs or even fly out on private planes, he says.

“We sell out daily and we hardly see any locals because the oil field comes and buys us out,” Mr. Campos says. “Locals tell me ‘I won’t even attempt to come to your place,’ and I’m like, ‘sorry dude.’”

Mr. Campos grew up in Pecos, whose population neared 10,000 in 2017, according to the Census. He was recently elected Reeves County commissioner and says that if a bust comes, it just means locals will be able to eat at the restaurant again.

By The Numbers: A Typical Day At Pody’s

25 Briskets (Up From 6 In 2012), Or About 250 Pounds Of Meat

20 Racks Of Pork Spare Ribs, Or About 60 Pounds Of Meat

150 Pounds Of Sausage

50 Pounds Pulled Pork

Boom Town, U.S.A.

A gusher of crude production has transformed the Permian Basin into America’s hottest oilfield, turning what was a remote corner of the country into a prosperous boom town, seemingly overnight.

No Seats At The Bar

When oil field workers want to blow off steam, many head to one of the most popular bars in Odessa, The Shack in the Back. Bar owner April Williams says patrons appreciate the Shack’s laid-back atmosphere and outdoor patio centered on a stretch of grass, uncommon in the area.

It’s so popular that oil companies pay $6,000 or more for tables while the bar is in season, about seven months a year. The bar is only open Wednesday nights, and is otherwise closed for weddings or corporate parties, so the fee works out to around 28 nights. Companies get a guaranteed picnic table on the patio and some employees and guests don’t have to pay the $10 cover. Reserving a table for just one evening costs as much as $100.

The tables are already booked for next season, says Ms. Williams, who opened the bar 15 years ago. It gets slower when oil prices are down, she adds, but she’s not that worried about a bust.

“People drink when they’re happy and people drink when they’re depressed,” she says.

By The Numbers: A Typical Wednesday At The Shack

800 Patrons

125 Cases Of Beer

60 Tables Reserved For One Night For Around $100

25 Tables Reserved For The Season

Townhouses For Teachers

The frenzy of money and workers has downsides. Chief among them is a paucity of affordable housing. There’s such a shortage that school districts in the Permian basin are considering building rental homes for teachers as rising housing costs make it increasingly difficult to recruit, even as public school enrollment in the Midland region has jumped 9% in five years, according to the Texas Education Agency.

The median home value in Midland, Texas was $256,600 as of January, according to Zillow Group Inc., up about 30% since oil dipped below $30 a barrel in 2016. Meanwhile, oil and gas workers earning top dollar have scooped up much of the available rental housing.

In Fort Stockton, about two hours southwest of Midland, the boom has exacerbated the already difficult problem of finding teachers willing to move out to the remote town of about 8,000, where new hires stand to earn $42,500. In response, the local school district is looking to build at least six duplexes to rent to teachers. The district already owns land where the homes could be located.

“If we have some keys we can dangle in front of them, it takes one thing off their plate if someone’s trying to move,” says Ralph Traynham, superintendent of the Fort Stockton Independent School District. The project is expected to cost about $2.8 million, Mr. Traynham said.

Not Your Father’s Man Camp

Chief Executive Brad Archer says Target’s facilities, which it calls lodges or communities, are vastly upgraded from the man-camps of years past. They include weight rooms, memory foam mattresses, executive chefs and even swimming pools.

“It’s definitely not my dad or your dad’s oil field,” Mr. Archer says.

Many oil workers live in temporary housing complexes, known as man-camps. Such camps have been a mainstay of oil booms over the last decade, offering frequently spartan, dormitory-like housing for influxes of temporary workers.

But as the man-camp game has become more competitive, some have become more upscale in a bid to win business. Target Lodging is the largest operator of man camps in the Permian basin. It’s invested hundreds of millions in the region and has gone from 80 beds in 2012 to 8,500 beds currently.

Mr. Archer says that the influx of workers to the region, some of whom can make six figures, are requiring creature comforts one wouldn’t typically associate with the oil patch. Target’s customers are oil companies who sign up for long-term contracts to house their workers. The company declined to disclose its rates, but analysts say higher-end man camps can charge $1,500 to $3,000 per month, depending on food and other services included.

Target offers rotating menus from chefs Mr. Archer says have worked in top tier restaurants around the world. At the lodge in Pecos, a worker can eat salmon and fresh vegetables in the dining hall or order wood-oven pizza and watch a football game at the “Frac Shack,” a sort-of sports bar, sans alcohol.

By The Numbers: Food Served By Target In The Permian In 2017

86,525 Pounds Of Bacon

16,200 Pounds Of Potatoes For Hand-Cut French Fries

76,500 Pounds Of Ground Beef

1.8 Million Eggs

32,200 Cases Of Oranges For Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

26,000 Gallons Of Milk

2.3 Million Bottles Of Water

How To Make The Booming Job Market Work For You

Is Now The Time To Change Jobs, Push For That Raise Or Lobby For A New Assignment?

The job market a decade ago was in such free fall that multiple generations are still feeling the scars of lost income and thwarted career opportunities. By contrast, the demand for workers now is so hot, it’s easy for many job seekers–especially those with sought-after tech skills–to feel almost giddy.

Rule No. 1 Of Today’s Booming Labor Market Remains The Same As Before: Don’t Overplay Your Hand.

Sure, employers need more people. Yes, many are even offering to train recruits on the job. But threatening to bolt if your boss won’t grant you a $10,000 raise? That still isn’t likely a winning strategy.

You can make a hot job market work for you, though—whether you aim to change companies or stay put. A guide to making the most of it now:

Don’t: Be Flattered Into Swapping Jobs

In a labor market this strong, it can be tempting to switch employers, especially when more money is on the table. But money shouldn’t be the sole consideration or even, perhaps, the biggest one. Rather, one of the best reasons to leave a role is when it doesn’t offer the right challenge–or a sense of control, says Daniel H. Pink, author of “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.” A job with a relentless schedule, and few inspiring problems can lead to burnout.

Do: Create A Career Map

Before swapping jobs, consider how a move may steer your career. Dawn Fay, senior district president at staffing firm Robert Half, recommends a career inventory, assessing where you want to go. Some job switchers also swear by elaborate spreadsheets, listing every pro and con of a potential move, from commuting time to growth opportunities. “It’s really, really critical for people to be well thought out about why they’re making a change,” Ms. Fay says. “You never want to change jobs just because everyone else is changing jobs.”

Do: Let Your Current Employer ‘Re-Recruit’ You

Companies don’t want to lose good employees, particularly at this moment, when it may be tougher to replace them. So many are “re-recruiting” workers, finding ways to make roles more attractive by changing responsibilities or offering development opportunities, Ms. Fay says. Brainstorm what your current employer can offer, she says; now may be an opportune time to speak up about an internal assignment you’ve coveted.”

Do: Get Creative In Asking For Benefits

More organizations are now offering student-loan repayment and money for educational expenses. Look for other areas to negotiate, too, says leadership consultant Roberta Matuson. Some of her clients now ask to be reimbursed for work with an executive coach, particularly if they’re entering a stretch role. She also advises workers to negotiate for extra vacation—“discretionary time is really the measurement of wealth,” she says—along with greater flexibility. And if a different title may prove helpful, ask for it. Finally, get everything in writing, Ms. Matuson says; your current boss could also head elsewhere soon.

Don’t: Ask For A Raise Unless You Can Show Results.

A tight labor market alone likely won’t convince your boss to fork over more cash. You’ll still need a strategy to clinch a raise, says Donna Morris, chief human-resources officer at software maker Adobe . Start by focusing on your own performance, delivering unquestionably good results, she advises. A discussion with your boss is also in order. She recommends asking: “If I want the top raise this year, what am I going to have to do?” The conversation should be ongoing, with regular check-ins.

Don’t: Bring Up A Counteroffer Without A Strategy

If you’re going to present your boss with an offer for a higher salary from another company, do so in the context of a broader discussion over your career prospects. Emphasize what you value about your current job, but express concerns about foregoing a higher salary. Don’t bring up a job offer you’re not willing to take. If your employer calls your bluff, know what you plan to do next.

Inside The Hottest Job Market In Half A Century

A look at who’s getting ahead, who could be left behind and how long the boom can last.

The job market doesn’t get much better than this. The U.S. economy has added jobs for 100 consecutive months. Unemployment recently touched its lowest level in 49 years. Workers are so scarce that, in many parts of the country, low-skill jobs are being handed out to pretty much anyone willing to take them—and high-skilled workers are in even shorter supply.

All sorts of people who have previously had trouble landing a job are now finding work. Racial minorities, those with less education and people working in the lowest-paying jobs are getting bigger pay raises and, in many cases, experiencing the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for their groups. They are joining manufacturing workers, women in their prime working years, Americans with disabilities and those with criminal records, among others, in finding improved job prospects after years of disappointment.

There are still fault lines. Jobs are still scarce for people living in rural areas of the country. Regions that rely on industries like coal mining or textiles are still struggling. And the tight labor market of the moment may be masking some fundamental shifts in the way we work that will hurt the job prospects of many people later on, especially those who lack advanced degrees and skills.

But for now, at least, many U.S. workers are catching up after years of slow growth and underwhelming wage gains.

One face of the red-hot job market is Cassandra Eaton, 23, a high-school graduate who was making $8.25 an hour at a daycare center near Biloxi, Miss., just a few months ago. Now she earns $19.80 an hour as an apprentice at a Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. shipyard in nearby Pascagoula, where she is learning to weld warships.

The unemployment rate in Mississippi, where Huntington employs 11,500 people, has been below 5% since September 2017. Prior to that month, the rate had never been below 5% on records dating back to the mid-1970s. In other parts of the country, the rate is even lower. In Iowa and New Hampshire, the December jobless rate was 2.4%, tied for the lowest in the country. That’s helped shift power toward job seekers and caused employers to expand their job searches and become more willing to train applicants that don’t meet all qualifications.

“It’s amazing that I’m getting paid almost $20 an hour to learn how to weld,” says Ms. Eaton, the single mother of a young daughter. When she finishes the two-year apprenticeship, her wage will rise to more than $27 per hour.

It’s no surprise to economists that many people who were previously left behind are now able to catch up. It’s something policymakers have been working toward for years. Obama administration economists debated how to sustain an unemployment below 5%. Now Trump administration officials are considering how to pull those not looking for jobs back into the labor force.

“If you can hold unemployment at a low level for a long time there are substantial benefits,” Janet Yellen, the former chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, said in an interview. “Real wage growth will be faster in a tight labor market. So disadvantaged workers gain on the employment and the wage side, and to my mind, that’s clearly a good thing.”

This was one of Ms. Yellen’s hopes when she was running the Fed from 2014 to 2018; keep interest rates low and let the economy run strong enough to keep driving hiring. In the process, the theory went, disadvantaged workers could be drawn from the fringes of the economy. With luck, inflation wouldn’t take off in the process. Her successor, Jerome Powell, has generally followed the strategy, moving cautiously on rates.

“This is a good time to be patient,” Mr. Powell told members of Congress Tuesday.

Looming Risks

The plan seems to be paying big dividends now, but will it yield long-term results for American workers?

Two risks loom. The first is that the low-skill workers who benefit most from a high-pressure job market are often hit hardest when the job market turns south. Consider what happened to high-school dropouts a little more than a decade ago. Their unemployment rate dropped below 6% in 2006 near the end of a historic housing boom, then shot up to more than 15% when the economy crumbled. Many construction, manufacturing and retail jobs disappeared.

The unemployment rate for high-school dropouts fell to 5% last year. In the past year, median weekly wages for the group rose more than 6%, outpacing all other groups. But if the economy turns toward recession, such improvement could again reverse quickly. “The periods of high unemployment are really terrible,” Ms. Yellen said.

The second risk is that this opportune moment in a long business cycle might be masking long-running trends that still disadvantage many workers. A long line of academic research shows that automation and competition from overseas threaten the work of manufacturing workers and others in mid-skill jobs, such as clerical work, that can be replaced by machines or low-cost workers elsewhere.

The number of receptionists in America, at 1.015 million in 2017, was 86,000 less than a decade earlier, according to the Labor Department. Their annual wage, at $29,640, was down 5% when adjusted for inflation.

Tougher trade deals being pushed by the Trump Administration might help to claw some manufacturing jobs back, but economists note that automation has many of the same effects on jobs in manufacturing and the service section as globalization, replacing tasks that tend to be repeated over and over again.

Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, said the next recession could be the moment when businesses deploy artificial intelligence, machine learning and other emerging technologies in new ways that further threaten mid-skill work.

“Recessions are a prime opportunity for companies to reexamine what they’re doing, trim headcount and search for ways to automate,” he said. “The pressure to do that is less when a long, long expansion is going on.”

With these forces in play, many economists predict a barbell job market will take hold, playing to the favor of low- and high-skill workers and still disadvantaging many in the middle.

Reaping Gains

The U.S. is adding jobs in low-skilled services sectors. Four of the six occupations the Labor Department expects to add the most jobs through 2026 require, at most, a high-school diploma. Personal-care aide, a job which pays about $11 an hour to help the elderly and disabled, is projected to add 778,000 jobs in the decade ended in 2026, the most of 819 occupations tracked. The department expects the economy to add more than half million food prep workers and more than a quarter million janitors.

Those low-skill workers are reaping pay gains in part because there aren’t a lot of people eager to fill low-skill jobs anymore. Only about 6% of U.S. workers don’t hold a high school diploma, down from above 40% in the 1960s, according research by MIT economist David Autor.

James O. Wilson dropped out of high school in the 10th grade and started selling drugs, which eventually led to a lengthy incarceration. When Mr. Wilson, 59, was released in 2013 he sought out training at Goodwill, where he learned to drive a forklift. Those skills led him to a part-time job at a FedEx Corp. facility at an Indianapolis, Ind., airport. He was promoted to a full-time job in 2017, and is now earning more than $16 an hour. He has a house with his wife and enjoys taking care of his cars, including a prized Cadillac.

“I wanted to show FedEx you can take a person, and he can change,” he said. “I want FedEx to say, ‘Do you have any more people like him?’”

Skilled workers in high-tech and managerial positions are also benefiting from the high-pressure labor market, particularly in thriving cities. Of 166 sectors that employ at least 100,000 Americans, software publishing pays the highest average wages, $59.81 an hour in the fourth quarter of 2018. Wages in the field grew 5.5% from a year earlier, well outpacing 3.3% overall growth in hourly pay. The average full-time employee in the sector already earns more than $100,000 a year.

More Jobs, More Money

Last year was a good time to be an employee—or become one—in most industries. Nearly three-fourths of 166 sectors the we reviewed saw gains in employment and earnings last year. Only four experienced a drop in both.

Other technical industries, scientific research and computer systems design, were also among the five best paying fields. Some of the hottest labor markets in the U.S.—including Austin, Texas; San Jose, Calif.; and Seattle—have more than twice the concentration of technical jobs as the country on average.

Analysis of Moody’s Analytics data found Austin to be the hottest labor market in the country among large metros. It ranked second in job growth, third for share of adults working and had the sixth-lowest unemployment rate last year, among 53 regions with a population of more than a million. San Jose, the second-hottest labor market, had the lowest average unemployment rate last year and the second-best wage growth.

Missing Out

While a strong economy is conveying benefits to a broad swath of Americans, those in rural areas aren’t experiencing the same lift from the rising tide.

In metro areas with fewer than 100,000 people and in rural America, the average unemployment last year was a half-percentage point higher compared to metro areas with more than a million people, according to analysis by job search site Indeed.com.

“Finding work can be challenging for rural job-seekers because rural workers and employers both have fewer options,” said Indeed economist Jed Kolko. “Many rural areas have slow-growing or shrinking populations.”

Bradley Cox lives in Vevay, Ind., a rural community of fewer than 2,000 people. The 23-year-old graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and liberal arts from Indiana University East in December, but said he had found opportunities limited in his region.

After years working in hourly positions at a casino, he took a job last summer as a cashier at a CVS Health Corp. drug store, making about $12 an hour. He hoped to work at a bank, or perhaps in a traveling sales role, making use of his business degree. “But to be honest, for me to do that, I would have to move to one of the cities or commute to one of the cities, at least,” he says. “I don’t have the opportunity around where I live.”

Other workers are employed—but need to string together two or more jobs to make ends meet.

Michelle Blandy, 48, had a full-time digital marketing job in Phoenix, but hasn’t been able to find steady work since moving to Harrisburg, Pa., to be closer to her family. Instead she’s pieced together some freelance projects, occasionally drives for Lyft and sells refurbished jewelry boxes on Etsy. “I have applied for full-time jobs, I just didn’t have any luck,” she said. “Harrisburg is tiny compared to Phoenix. There’s not as many tech companies or big companies here that are hiring.”

The good news is this long run of low unemployment could last for a while. Economic theory holds that when unemployment is very low, it stirs inflation, which causes the Federal Reserve to raise short-term interest rates and short-circuit growth and hiring. That kind of cycle ended the 1960s period of low unemployment, but inflation in this period remains below the Fed’s target of 2%.

That’s allowed the Fed to keep rates low. By January 1970, when the unemployment rate was 3.9%, the Fed had raised its target short-term interest rate to more than 8% to fight inflation. By contrast, when the jobless rate fell below 4% last year, the Fed kept its target rate below 2.5% thanks to low inflation.

“It may turn out that lower unemployment proves to be more sustainable than it was in the 1960s,” says Ms. Yellen. “I think we don’t know yet.”

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