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Economy in Brief

U.S. State Unemployment Rates Are Lower but Vary Widely
by Tom Moeller  November 21, 2014

The overall U.S. unemployment rate continued to reach new lows last month. The 5.8% rate was a six-year low and down from 10.0% at its late-2009 peak. Variation in the level amongst individual states continues, but a declining trend is evident most everywhere. Georgia's rebounding unemployment rate is the country's highest at 7.7%, but that remained below the 10.4% high in early-2010. Nevada's rate at 7.1% was down from a peak of 13.9% in 2010. The country's largest states also realized great improvement in labor market conditions. California's comparatively high 7.3% jobless rate was sharply below the 2010 peak of 12.3%. In Tennessee, last month's 7.1% rate was up from the recent 6.3% low, but still compared favorably to the 2009 high of 11.0%. New York's unemployment rate of 6.0% was a recovery low and compared to the 2009 peak of 8.9%.The jobless rate in Texas was down to 5.1% from its 2010 high of 8.3%.

Amongst mid-sized states, Michigan's jobless rate fell to 7.1% after hovering near 7.5% this spring and summer. That was half the 14.2% peak in 2009. Florida's 6.0% rate of joblessness was a new low and compared to 11.4% at the 2009 peak. In Virginia, the jobless rate returned to 5.3% last month after backing up to 5.5%. It still was, however, below the 7.4% peak reached late in 2009. Amongst smaller states, Nebraska's 3.4% unemployment rate was a new low, down from the 4.9% 2009 high while Connecticut saw its rate move straight downward to 6.4% from a 9.5% high. North Dakota's rate at 2.8% was up versus its low, but still down versus the 2009 high of 4.2%. Nebraska's rate fell to a new low of 3.4% versus the 4.9% peak.

The unemployment rate figures in individual metropolitan areas continued, in most circumstances, to differ widely from the state numbers. Florida's 6.0% unemployment rate was just below the 6.5% rate in the Miami metro area, although it was roughly half the 2010 figure. Michigan's 7.1% unemployment rate also was under the 8.3% figure around Detroit. In 2009 it reached 16.0%. New York state's 6.0% unemployment rate was just below the sharply reduced 6.4% in New York City while California's 7.3% rate was under the 8.0% around Los Angeles. Also, Ohio's 5.3% rate was well below Cleveland's of 6.4%. Working the other way, the Illinois unemployment rate of 6.6% was above the sharply reduced 6.3% around Chicago. Finally, Washington state's 6.0% jobless rate exceeded Seattle's 4.8%.

State unemployment figures are available in Haver's EMPLR database.

Oct Sep 2013 2012 2011 Labor Force

Total U.S. Unemployment Rate

5.8% 5.9% 7.4% 8.1% 8.9% 155.7 million

Ten States With Highest Jobless Rate

  Georgia 7.7 7.9 8.2 9.0 9.9 4.8
  Mississippi 7.6 7.7 8.6 9.2 10.6 1.3
  California 7.3 7.3 8.9 10.4 11.8 18.6
  Nevada 7.1 7.3 9.8 11.5 13.3 1.4
  Tennessee 7.1 7.3 8.2 8.2 9.3 3.1
  Michigan 7.1 7.2 8.8 9.1 10.4 4.7
  Illinois 6.6 6.6 9.1 9.0 9.7 9.6
  New Jersey 6.6 6.5 8.2 9.3 9.3 4.6
  North Carolina 6.3 6.7 8.0 9.3 10.2 4.7
  Indiana 5.7 5.7 7.5 8.1 8.8 3.2
Ten States With Lowest Jobless Rate          
  Virginia 5.3 5.5 5.5 5.9 6.5 4.2 million
  Wyoming 4.7 4.7 4.6 5.4 6.1 0.3
  Iowa 4.5 4.6 4.7 5.2 5.8 1.6
  Vermont 4.4 4.4 4.3 4.9 5.6 0.4
  New Hampshire 4.2 4.3 5.3 5.5 5.5 0.7
  Hawaii 4.1 4.2 4.8 5.7 6.5 0.7
  Minnesota 3.9 4.1 5.0 5.6 6.5 3.0
  Utah 3.6 3.6 4.4 5.4 6.8 1.4
  Nebraska 3.4 3.6 3.9 4.0 4.5 1.0
  North Dakota 2.8 2.8 2.9 3.0 3.4 0.4
Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States          
  Arizona 6.8 6.9 8.0 8.3 9.4 3.0 million
  Connecticut 6.4 6.4 7.8 8.3 8.9 1.8
  Louisiana 6.2 6.0 6.1 6.5 7.2 2.1
  New York 6.0 6.2 7.7 8.5 8.3 9.6
  Florida 6.0 6.1 7.2 8.8 10.3 9.4
  Massachusetts 6.0 6.0 7.1 6.8 7.3 3.5
  Washington 6.0 5.7 7.0 8.1 9.2 3.5
  Wisconsin 5.4 5.5 6.7 6.9 7.5 3.1
  Ohio 5.3 5.6 7.3 7.4 8.7 5.7
  Texas 5.1 5.2 6.3 6.9 7.9 12.8
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