The U.S. academic job market (at least in my field, mathematics) is very competitive, regardless of the institution and its perceived quality. Now, competition comes in various flavors. We have a lot of people looking for few jobs. That automatically creates competition. You need something to make yourself stand out from the other candidates.
My school is less-competitive as far as admission of students is concerned. Our student body is not that strong overall, although we get a fair number of really bright kids. We also have a 4/4 teaching load, and faculty salaries are relatively low. Our last job search was conducted almost ten years ago and we received in the neighborhood of 200 applications. At more research oriented schools, you may be competing with more applicants, and applicants who have very strong resumes relative to research. So, you're likely to be competing against a larger and more talented pool. This makes the situation even more competitive.
I thought that I was going to follow your intended career path, start out small, be able to spend some quality time with the family, and produce some great work that would allow me to move up to a better school. Didn't happen. I've been able to do some research, but not nearly enough, or of high enough quality, to allow me to move up. There are a couple of factors to keep in mind working in a less competitive environment, especially with a high teaching load. Your research time will be limited, and you won't have a lot of resources at your disposal (great library, colleagues who are fluent in your area, etc.). So, think carefully about what you want to do. Mine has not been a bad career, but it is not what I imagined starting out. As a general rule, it's easier to move down than up. So, I'd apply to the best places for which you're qualified and hope for the best.