Updated on July 2, 2012 with May 2012 unemployment data.
12.7 million people.
That's how many are still actively searching for work in the U.S. according to a May 2012 jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And that daunting figure doesn't even include the millions of other unemployed persons who have stopped looking for work altogether.
Still, just because the nation's employment situation as a whole isn't rosy doesn'tthat things are bleak everywhere.
In fact, there are a number of states that boast rock-bottom unemployment rates at levels most of the country hasn't seen in years.
Here are 10 states that have the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, according to the May 2012 employment report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
10. Minnesota -- 5.6% Unemployment
Already boasting a better-than-the-national-average 6.6% unemployment rate in May 2011, Minnesota's unemployment has kept falling.
With today's 5.6% unemployment rate, it ranks 10th on the list. (It fell just short of the top 10 in our last look at states with lowest unemployment rates, back in July 2011.)
9. Virginia -- 5.6% Unemployment
In the past year, Virginia has graduated from 10th to ninth place.
The commonwealth's steady forestry and agricultural industries, along with its heavy government defense spending -- the state is home to the Pentagon, a major Marine Corps base in Quantico and many other bases -- has kept the economy well afloat.
8. Wyoming -- 5.2% Unemployment
Wyoming continues to prosper, with its unemployment falling from a 6.0% in May 2011 to today's 5.2%.
Steady tourism to the state's beautiful natural attractions (such as the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks), healthy commodity prices and energy extraction has kept the state's economy humming.
7. Iowa -- 5.1% Unemployment
Iowa's strong agricultural exports, along with its manufacturing, finance, insurance, biotech and government-service industries, have been the engines of a thriving economy.
That economic success isn't new either. In May 2011, Iowa's jobless rate was just 6.0%, well below the national average.
6. New Hampshire -- 5.0% Unemployment
New Hampshire may have fallen from fourth to sixth place since our 2011 list, but that doesn't mean the state's job prospects have taken a turn for the worse. The state's unemployment rate has fallen from 5.4% since May 2011.
Demand for the state's agricultural and manufactured products (such as electric equipment, plastic products, rubber, textiles and machinery) has added up to one sturdy economy. Just one in 20 workers is actively looking for work in the Granite State.
Strong job prospects should give new college grads a much needed boost -- as New Hampshire's college graduates carried the most student loan debt in the entire country. The New England state also ranked sixth on our list of states with the highest credit card debt.
5. Oklahoma -- 4.8% Unemployment
The Sooner State can largely thank its oil, natural gas and agricultural industries for its continued prosperity.
Oklahoma is the fourth largest producer of natural gas and the fifth largest producer of crude oil in the nation, according to an Oklahoma City University industry report released in May.
Just as in 2011, Oklahoma ranks fifth in the nation in terms of unemployment. The state has added 38,200 jobs since May 2011, according to the BLS report, causing the unemployment rate to drop from 5.9% to today's 4.8%.
4. Vermont -- 4.6% Unemployment
The state that already had a stellar unemployment rate last year (5.6% in May 2011) continues to see its unemployment shrink even faster than the rest of the nation.
Steady farm production, along with job growth in finance and government, have kept the economy growing in the Green Mountain State.
3. South Dakota -- 4.3% Unemployment
With an unemployment rate of just 4.3% (down from 4.8% in May 2011), South Dakota's job market is holding up better today than the majority of the country did before the recession.
Steady military and government employment, coupled with the nation's insatiable demand for the state's wheat, soybeans, sunflowers, beef and pork has kept this economy thriving.
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2. Nebraska -- 3.9% Unemployment
Yet another agriculturally-driven state on the list, Nebraska nabs the silver medal on this list for the second straight year.
The rate of unemployment has fallen just six-tenths of a percentage point since May 2011. But with today's 3.9 percent unemployment -- less than half the national average unemployment rate -- few in the Cornhusker State are likely to complain about it.
1. North Dakota -- 3.0% Unemployment
North Dakota's unemployment may not have fallen all that much since May of last year, but no matter. From an already stellar 3.5% to today's 3.0%, no other state manages to get closer to perfection.
If you had wheat cereal this morning, you can probably thank North Dakota. The state produces 50% of the entire nation's spring wheat crop, more than the next largest wheat producers -- Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota -- combined.
The Peace Garden State has also been riding the wave of success from one of the largest oil booms in decades. The state's Bakken Shale field is one of the largest oil fields in the entire world, and with the U.S. Geological Survey estimating that there could be well over four billion barrels of oil within the region, you can reasonably expect North Dakota's employment situation to remain strong for years to come.
[Skilled workers in one boom town in North Dakota can land a good job within a week, sometimes even within a day. See The ONE place in America Where Jobs are Plentiful.]