At this time last year, Robert Thomson was unemployed and unsure where to go. Fast forward to today, and he recently celebrated a 20 percent raise after working at Richmond American Homes for one month. And this was after switching from another building company he worked with for eight months.
"I feel much better than I did," the 33-year-old Thomson told Bloomberg. "There's a lot of construction, just a lot of things going on."
Thomson is a good example of the kinds of jobs people are finding in the western third of the U.S. right now. Homebuilders and software development companies are leading the pack in this area, with new data from Moody's and IHS Global Insight painting a rosy picture for the region - a welcome outlook for the area that has had the highest unemployment rates since 2006. Las Vegas, south California and Arizona all saw housing prices tumble in that year, which led to a huge drop in the economy.
But in the last year alone, Nevada's unemployment numbers have dropped 2.4 percent to 10.4 percent - the swiftest decline of any state. Arizona and California unemployment rates have also fallen by about 1 percent.
Early estimates from Bloomberg economists say the national unemployment rate likely held steady in December at 7.7 percent. Businesses most likely added new jobs at the same rate as in November, which suggests the jobs market may be starting to improve. This better outlook could also cross over into January hiring, with Congress passing a measure to avoid going over the fiscal cliff.
The west rises
The west has proven to be a hotbed for new jobs, with metropolitan areas in the region with employment of 1 million or higher seeing the fastest job growth in the 12 months leading up to November 2012.
"We view the West as the nation's most dynamic growth region," said Lee McPheters, research professor and director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University in Tempe.
McPheters added that in 2013, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Washington and California are all expected to become the best places to look for a job in the country. In the next 10 years, Texas and California are expected to add 1 million jobs each - more than any other state.
"The West has been outpacing the rest of the U.S.," said Eduardo J. Martinez, senior economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. "Labor markets crashed when the housing market crashed. Now we are seeing signs of housing prices and permit issuance swing from neutral to positive."
According to CNN, more manufacturing jobs could be on the horizon as well, with U.S. manufacturing activity rising in December.
The Institute of Supply Management's latest figures show the U.S. manufacturing industry's reading came in at 50.7 in December, rising from a low of 49.5 hit in November. This came on the heels of last month's report that found the ISM employment index for manufacturing grew by 4.3 percent.
"We are seeing stabilization of orders and costs as well as production capacity for the first time in months," one of the manufacturers said in the survey.
The manufacturing data has led economists to report a more optimistic outlook for 2013, which many say will see larger economic growth and a stable - albeit slow - growth in new jobs, as well as greater use of staffing services.