Best states to work have strong education and health care systems – STLtoday.com

If you’re looking for a job, it turns out that Massachusetts, Washington or Colorado are your best bet — even better than New York or California — when it comes to all the reasons you would want to live and work somewhere.

Massachusetts ranks No. 1 overall thanks to a strong education and health care system, according to a study from personal finance website WalletHub, which gauged 33 indicators of job-market strength, opportunity and economic health. West Virginia came in last.

It’s not just about the job opportunities or compensation. If it were, California may have done better than No. 9, given the formidable job engine that is Silicon Valley. The high cost of living and real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area probably didn’t help.

Still, the Golden State outdid its rival on the East Coast, coming in 11 places ahead of 20th-ranked New York. With more college graduates heading south to New York City, the gap between the Big Apple and the rest of the state is widening, according to the report. That hurt its overall ranking, said Anna Tavis, professor of human capital management at New York University.

“You have pockets of success, but it needs to be more evenly divided between upstate and New York City,” she said. “This index captures the whole employment viability of the state.”

Massachusetts topped other states because it has a diversity of industries, a strong health care system and top schools, the report stated. “They have an education system that is superior to most in the country and prepares people for those jobs — and a huge health care sector that generates so many jobs,” Tavis said.

There’s a vital connection between a state’s quality of education and how each one ranks, according to the report. Good schools attract students, and many stay after graduation — especially if there’s a wide range of careers they can pursue.

The states at the bottom don’t suffer so much from a lack of jobs, but rather a lack of quality jobs. Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, Alaska and West Virginia were ranked last because of the large number of positions available in those states that are low-paid, short-term and seasonal.

Both Illinois and Missouri ranked in the bottom half, according to the study. Illinois was 31st; Missouri 33rd.

Tavis predicted that education will continue to be a key factor for determining where future college graduates land. As a result, the divide between coastal and rural states will widen. The green energy and health care sectors, she said, are where most sustainable jobs are going to be created, and they’re going to be closer to where people prepare for those types of jobs.