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Economy in Brief

U.S. State Unemployment Rates Vary Greatly
by Tom Moeller  May 23, 2016

The overall U.S. unemployment rate has averaged 5.0% since Q4 of last year, half its late-2009 peak. For all of 2015, the 5.3% jobless rate was down roughly two percentage points from 2014. Despite the overall decline great variation amongst individual states continued.

In the latest report for April, California's 5.3% jobless rate was less than half the 12.1% peak averaged during 2010. Unemployment in Illinois of 6.6%, though up of late, was down from the peak of 10.3% averaged both in 2009 and 2010. The jobless rate in Texas has been fairly stable since early last year near 4.5%, but remained down versus the 2008 average high of 8.4%. In Tennessee, last month's 4.3% rate compared to the 2009 average high of 10.6%. New York's unemployment rate of 4.8% compared to the 2009 peak of 8.9%.

Amongst mid-sized states, Michigan showed perhaps the greatest degree of reduced joblessness in the country. It's 4.8% rate was down from 6.4% at the end of 2014, but roughly one-third of its 13.8% peak in 2009. New Jersey's 4.7% rate of joblessness compared to 9.5% averaged in 2010, while Virginia's rate at 3.9% was below the 7.0% peak in 2010. Amongst smaller states, Vermont's decline in the unemployment rate resumed this year and fell to 3.2%, compared to a high of 7.0%. Connecticut's has backed up a bit to 5.7%, yet it's still below the 9.1% for all of 2010. South Dakota's rate fell to 2.5% from the 5.0% peak.

Increased unemployment, however, occurred in several states last month such as Ohio where its 5.2% jobless rate was up from the 4.6% low. Illinois' recent 6.6% rate was higher than 5.8% nine months ago. Pennsylvania's 5.3% jobless rate was up from 4.6% as recently as February. North Dakota's rate of 3.2% was up from the 2.7% low.

The unemployment rate figures in individual metropolitan areas continued, in most circumstances, to differ widely from the state numbers. Florida's 4.8% unemployment rate was below the 5.5% in the Miami metro area, although Miami's rate was down from 11.1% average in 2010. Michigan's 4.8% jobless rate also was under the 5.6% jobless rate around Detroit. In 2009, it averaged 15.0%. New York state's 4.9% unemployment rate was below the 5.4% rate in New York City, while California's 5.3% rate roughly equaled the 5.1% around Los Angeles. Also close to one another were Illinois' unemployment rate of 6.6% and Chicago's 6.5%, both of which have risen lately. Ohio's 5.2% rate equaled Cleveland's rate of joblessness. Working the other way were Washington state's 5.8% jobless rate which exceeded Seattle's 4.8%, which also has moved up.

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

Apr Mar 2015 2014 2013 Labor Force

Total U.S. Unemployment Rate

5.0% 5.0% 5.3 6.2 7.4% 157.1 million

Ten States With Highest Jobless Rate

  Alaska 6.6 6.6 6.5 6.9 5.9 0.4
  Mississippi 6.0 6.3 6.5 7.4 8.4 1.3
  Louisiana 6.3 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.5 2.2
  Illinois 6.6 6.5 5.9 7.0 8.9 6.5
  Nevada 5.8 5.8 6.7 7.9 9.5 1.4
  Georgia 5.5 5.5 5.8 7.0 8.0 4.7
  North Carolina 5.4 5.5 5.7 6.2 7.8 4.8
  California 5.3 5.4 6.3 7.5 8.8 19.0
  New Jersey 4.7 4.4 5.6 6.7 8.1 4.5
  Tennessee 4.3 4.5 5.8 6.5 7.7 3.0
Ten States With Lowest Jobless Rate      
  Virginia 3.9 4.0 4.4 5.1 5.6 4.2 million
  Iowa 3.9 3.8 3.6 4.1 4.7 1.7
  Minnesota 3.8 3.8 3.6 4.1 4.8 3.0
  Utah 3.7 3.5 3.5 3.8 4.5 1.5
  Maine 3.4 3.4 4.4 5.6 6.6 0.7
  Hawaii 3.2 3.1 3.6 4.4 4.9 0.7
  Colorado 3.1 2.9 3.8 4.9 6.7 2.8
  Nebraska 3.0 3.0 2.9 3.2 3.7 1.0
  New Hampshire 2.6 2.6 3.4 4.3 5.1 0.7
  South Dakota 2.5 2.5 3.1 3.4 3.8 0.5
Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States      
  Louisiana 6.3 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.5 2.2 million
  Washington 5.8 5.8 5.7 6.1 6.9 3.5
  Connecticut 5.7 5.7 5.6 6.6 7.7 1.9
  Arizona 5.5 5.4 6.1 6.7 7.5 3.0
  Ohio 5.2 5.1 4.8 5.7 7.3 5.7
  New York 4.9 4.8 5.3 6.3 7.5 9.6
  Michigan 4.8 4.8 5.4 7.1 8.5 4.7
  Florida 4.8 4.9 5.3 6.1 7.0 9.6
  Texas 4.4 4.3 4.5 5.0 6.1 13.0
  Wisconsin 4.4 4.5 4.6 5.4 6.6 3.1
  Massachusetts 4.2 4.4 4.9 5.7 6.6 3.6
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