If the terms of your re-entry into the outside world include community restrictions because of probation, parole, or the nature of your crime, this article may be of limited usefulness in your job search. It may also be limited if you Lack appropriate education and marketable skills for the job market. Nonetheless, it should become increasingly relevant in the years ahead after you have completed your post-release sentencing requirements.

Identifying the geographical area where you would like to work will be one of your most important decisions. Once you make this decision, other job search decisions and activities become easier.

Deciding where you want to live involves researching various communities and comparing advantages and disadvantages of each.

In addition to identifying specific job alternatives, organizations, and individuals in the community, you should do research on other aspects of the community. After all, you will live in the community, buy or rent a residence, perhaps send children to school, and participate in community organizations and events.

It would be foolish for you to take a new job without first researching several aspects of the community other than available job opportunities. Will you be living and looking for work in a community of hope or one of despair? Will you be relocating to one of the best or worst states for employment?

The following states (as of June 2008) have the lowest unemployment rates:
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • Nebraska
  • Utah
  • North Dakota
  • Hawaii
  • Oklahoma
  • Idaho
  • New Mexico
  • Iowa
States having the highest unemployment rates (as of June 2008) are:
  • Michigan
  • Rhode Island
  • Alaska
  • Mississippi
  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • South Carolina
  • Illinois
  • Tennessee
  • Ohio
But employment and unemployment figures for states tell you nothing about the employment situation in particular cities and counties. For example, while Washington, DC has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, three counties south and west of Washington, DC have the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. Many of the best job opportunities will be found in thriving suburbs within 10-20 miles of large cities.

You should consider moving to communities that are experiencing low unemployment coupled with steady job growth, as well as offering attractive lifestyles. Among the cities identified by in May 2005 as the best places for business and work are, in descending order:
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
  • Austin, Texas
  • Washington, DC
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • Norfolk, Virginia
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Madison, Wisconsin
Community growth and decline trends should be considered as part of your job and career options. If you live in a declining community with few opportunities for your skills and interests, seriously consider relocating to a growth community. Depressed communities simply do not generate enough jobs for their populations, and the quality of jobs tends to be low.

Many communities with populations of 100,000 to 500,000 offer a nice variety of job and lifestyle options.

For more tips on researching communities, check out these two articles:

SOURCE: Adapted and updated from Ron and Caryl Krannich, Ph.Ds, The Ex-Offender's Job Hunting Guide (Manassas Park, VA: Impact Publications). Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.