Unemployment and job growth remain big issues in the U.S. economy and in the current political campaigns. So now, more than halfway through the year, what are the top states and cities for job growth? Research Professor Lee McPheters of the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University provides rankings and analysis based on the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Top 10 cities and surrounding metro areas (1 million or more workers) for non-agricultural job growth, comparing July 2011 with July 2012:

1. San Francisco – up 3.5 percent
2. Houston – up 3.2 percent
3. Denver – up 3 percent
4. (tie) Phoenix – up 2.9 percent
4. (tie) Seattle – up 2.9 percent
4. (tie) San Diego – up 2.9 percent
7. Cincinnati – up 2.8 percent
8. Riverside, Calif. – up 2.3 percent
9. (tie) Portland, Ore. – up 2.2 percent
9. (tie) Boston – up 2.2 percent

Top 10+ states for non-agricultural job growth, comparing July 2011 with July 2012:

North Dakota – up 6.9 percent
California – up 2.6 percent
Oklahoma – up 2.5 percent
Arizona – up 2.4 percent
Indiana – up 2.2 percent
Minnesota – up 2.1 percent
Texas – up 2.1 percent
Louisiana – up 2.1 percent
Kentucky – up 2.1 percent
Utah – up 2 percent
Vermont – up 2 percent
Ohio – up 2 percent

The overall job-growth rate for the United States, from July 2011 to July 2012, was 1.4 percent. The number of jobs went up 1.83 million nationwide.

However, 12 states had non-agricultural job creation at or above 2 percent. That includes North Dakota, which has ranked No. 1 for 38 consecutive months — thanks largely to oil and gas production. However, other states are moving up in the rankings.

“California is the state that’s really climbing,” says McPheters, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “California added 362,000 jobs from July to July, more than any other state, placing it second on the list. It’s all the way up from 38th place last July. Big gains came in the professional and business services sectors, which accounted for almost one out of every three new jobs there.”

McPheters adds that Indiana and Ohio are growing faster now than at any other time since the year 2000. Those two states and Illinois each added more than 20,000 manufacturing jobs over the year. Ohio, California, New York and Texas are the only states that added more than 100,000 jobs total over the past 12 months.

Also, Arizona, Oklahoma and Minnesota are all on track for their best annual increase in employment since 2006.

“Arizona moved up to fourth place in the job-creation rankings, and I expect it to rank among the top 10 states for the year as a whole,” says McPheters. “This would be a big improvement over 2010, just two years ago, when the state ranked 49th in annual employment growth. Big gains in the retail sector have helped.”

As far as the election swing states: Colorado, Ohio and Virginia all exceeded the national job-growth average, while Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania were below it.

Eight states lost jobs year-over year: Alaska, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

“State job growth is diversified, with every region represented in the top 10,” says McPheters. “However, the top 10 fastest-growing metro areas – except Cincinnati and Boston — are all in the West.”

San Francisco and Houston are the only two metro areas with annual job growth above 3 percent, more than twice the growth of the national economy. However, McPheters says the industries driving the growth are very different. San Francisco had an 8.6-percent boost in its professional and technical sectors, while Houston’s health care industry experienced 6.5-percent growth over the year.