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Which U.S. State Has the Happiest Employees?

A new nationwide happiness index reveals which states are home to the most satisfied employees.

Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
Contributing Experts
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New Research Unveils the States with the Happiest and Unhappiest Employees in America

  • A new nationwide happiness index reveals which states are home to the most satisfied employees, with Alaska crowned the winning state  
  • The index evaluates each state based on wages, quit rates, commute times, working hours, injuries, paid time off, and state positivity levels
  • While Alaska excels for annual wage, commute times and quit rates, other high performers include North Dakota, Nebraska and Rhode Island
  • The state with the unhappiest employees is Georgia, while Florida and Texas also have some of the least satisfied workforces  
Infographic showing data of the happiest employees by U.S. state

New research has named Alaska as the state with the happiest employees, while Georgia faces challenges with the worst job satisfaction.  

The ranking, created by HR technology experts at SelectSoftware Reviews, measured performance in key metrics across all 50 states, and awarded each a happiness score out of 100 to reveal where is best and worst for job satisfaction.  

The index evaluated factors such as annual wages, quit rates, injuries, commute times, PTO (paid time off) laws, weekly working hours, and general state happiness scores out of 300.

Alaska has clinched the title as the state with the happiest employees, boasting shorter average workweeks of 31.3 hours, a generous average wage of $52,000 per annum, and an overall job satisfaction score of 69.96.

The state with the highest average wage came out as Massachusetts at $58,450 per annum, meaning Alaska comes close with only a 7.5% difference.  

Second place, at a total score of 56.64, is Rhode Island. With a thriving job market, available PTO laws, and a modest quit rate of 2.4%, it also has the lowest injury rate of any state with only five fatal incidents reported in the previous year.  

North Dakota ranked third with a score of 56.40, thanks to its comfortable annual wage of $47,400 and a short average commute of just 17.6 minutes.  

In comparison, the longest commute came out as 33.5 minutes in New York. Longer commutes can be detrimental to employee morale, as they significantly extend the workday, while problems like heavy traffic can increase overall stress.  

Colorado upholds a comfortable average wage of $50,250, with modest injury and quit rates and consistently below-average working hours of 39.4 per week, securing a total score of 55.76.

Despite its above-average working week at 40.2 hours, Minnesota is next on the list. With a low quit rate of 1.8% and generous PTO laws, it scores 55.26.

Completing the top ten for highest employee satisfaction is Nebraska earning a solid 54.91, Maine with a score of 53.98, Ohio at 52.02, Arizona with 51.69 and Indiana accumulating a total of 48.84.

The 10 U.S. States with the Happiest Employee

Alaska  69.96 
Rhode Island  56.64 
North Dakota  56.40 
Colorado  55.76 
Minnesota  55.26 
Nebraska  54.91 
Maine  53.98 
Ohio  52.05 
Arizona  51.69 
10  Indiana  48.84 

The 10 U.S. States with the Unhappiest Employee

Georgia  29.62 
Texas  30.36 
Florida  30.46 
South Carolina  31.65 
New York  31.51 
Alabama  32.68 
Pennsylvania  33.26 
Virginia  33.89 
New Jersey  34.09 
10  New Mexico  34.25 

In contrast, Georgia came out as the worst-performing state for job satisfaction, scoring an overall 29.62. It has the highest quit rate, 3.6%, of any contender, ranks poorly for general state happiness, and grapples with an average commute time of 28.7 minutes.  

In Texas, a considerable challenge arises with a staggering 533 fatal workplace injuries per year, coupled with the second-longest average working week, trailing only behind Louisiana, at 43.6 hours. These factors contribute to an overall score of 30.36.

Florida comes next with a total of 30.46. Taking home an average wage of $38,470, coupled with a long working week of 41.5 hours, the average Floridian only earns $18 p/h compared to the $32 p/h earned in Alaska. This and the state’s lack of PTO laws bring down overall employee satisfaction.  

In the heart of the Big Apple, despite holding the third-highest average wage at $52,470, New York holds a high injury rate - causing over 247 fatalities last year - and the longest commute time of any state. Consequently, the state accumulated a final score of 31.51.

Employees in South Carolina encounter significant challenges, earning notably $13,000 less than their Alaskan counterparts, at $38,870. South Carolina not only ranks poorly in overall state happiness but also sustains a high quit rate of 3.1%. Meaning, it wrestles a total employee satisfaction score of 31.65.  

Completing the top ten states with the least satisfied employees is Alabama at 32.68, closely followed by Pennsylvania at 33.14 and Virginia at 33.26. New Jersey scores 34.09, along with New Mexico rounding out the list at 34.25.

These insights reaffirm the significance of prioritizing employee well-being in the modern work landscape, particularly in the states that performed the worst for job satisfaction.

“Although many people might assume that a job is the same wherever you are, these results demonstrate the considerable impact a location can have on how workers feel about their job, whether that is due to state laws, commute times, or wages. It emphasizes the importance for employers to create environments where employees find genuine fulfillment and can thrive.”

All data is correct as of September 2023. Sources included: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Stats America, Bankrate, Paycor and Scholaroo.

Employee Happiness Scores by U.S. State

Alaska  69.96
Rhode Island  56.64
North Dakota  56.40
Colorado  55.76
Minnesota  55.26
Nebraska  54.91
Maine  53.98
Ohio  52.05
Arizona  51.69
10  Indiana  48.84
11  Massachusetts  48.33
12  West Virginia  48.31
13  California  46.92
14  Maryland  45.92
15  Hawaii  44.01
16  Illinois  43.70
17  Utah  43.41
18  Washington  42.95
19  Oklahoma  42.98
20  Vermont  42.11
21  Louisiana  41.46
22  Oregon  40.35
23  Wyoming  40.37
24  Iowa  39.50
25  Connecticut  39.28
26  Kansas  39.36
27  Missouri  39.34
28  North Carolina  38.95
29  Mississippi  37.58
30  South Dakota  37.24
31  Montana  36.97
32  Arkansas  36.58
33  New Hampshire  36.64
34  Wisconsin  36.49
35  Nevada  36.06
36  Michigan  35.88
37  Tennessee  35.87
38  Idaho  35.45
39  Kentucky  35.07
40  Delaware  34.60
41  New Mexico  34.25
42  New Jersey  34.09
43  Virginia  33.89
44  Pennsylvania  33.26
45  Alabama  32.68
46  South Carolina  31.65
47  New York  31.51
48  Florida  30.46
49  Texas  30.36
50  Georgia  29.62
Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
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Phil is the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and Recruiting teams find and buy the right software through in-depth, expert advice. He has bought over $1 million worth of HR and Recruiting tools. Additionally, as of 2023, nearly 3 million HR professionals have relied on his advice to determine which business software they should buy.

Phil studied finance at New York University and started his career working in venture capital before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School. His in-depth understanding of the Saas landscape, especially HR Tech, stems from nearly a decade of researching and working with these tools as a computer programmer, user, and entrepreneur.

Featured in: Entrepreneur Harvard Business School Yahoo HR.com Recruiting Daily Hacking HR Podcast HR ShopTalk Podcast Employer Branding for Talent Acquisition (Udemy Course)

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