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Economy in Brief

State Unemployment Rates Show Great Variation & Improvement
by Tom Moeller  April 23, 2012

Throughout the United States, the unemployment rate has fallen to some degree from its recession high. In some states, such as New York or Louisiana, improvement has been minimal. In others, as in South Carolina or Florida, the decline has been great. Differences in the degree of improvement reflect both changes in the labor force and employment. In most cases, the size of the labor force is down from the early-recession peaks. Exceptions include the Dakotas, Maine, Virginia, Texas and Tennessee where individual have been moving in. As for employment, it has risen almost everywhere including Massachusetts, Virginia, Texas, Indiana and New Jersey.

State Unemployment Rate March 2011 2010 2009 Labor Force
Total U.S. 8.2% 9.0% 9.6% 9.3% 154.7 mil.
Ten States With Highest Jobless Rate
  Nevada 12.0 13.6 13.7 11.6 1.4
  Rhode Island 11.1 11.3 11.7 10.9 0.6
  California 11.0 11.8 12.3 11.3 18.5
  North Carolina 9.7 10.5 10.9 10.5 4.7
  Mississippi 9.0 10.7 10.5 9.4 2.3
  Florida 9.0 10.5 11.3 10.4 9.3
  New Jersey 9.0 9.3 9.6 9.0 4.6
  Georgia 9.0 9.8 10.2 9.8 4.8
  South Carolina 8.9 10.3 11.2 11.5 2.2
  Illinois 8.8 9.8 10.5 10.0 6.6

The accompanying tables indicate varying degrees of decline in the unemployment rate in large-versus-small states.In the two largest states, California and Texas, the unemployment rate has declined over one percentage point. However, the unemployment rate in California still remains one of the highest in the country and four percentage points higher than Texas. The smallest states, including the Dakotas, Nebraska and Vermont, remain at the low end of the unemployment rate scale.


10 States With Lowest Jobless Rate March 2011 2010 2009 Labor Force
  Minnesota 5.8 6.4 7.3 8.0 3.0
  Utah 5.8 6.7 8.0 7.6 1.3
  Virginia 5.6 6.3 6.9 6.9 4.3
  Wyoming 5.3 6.0 7.0 6.3 0.3
  Iowa 5.2 5.9 6.3 6.2 1.7
  New Hampshire 5.2 5.4 6.1 6.2 0.7
  Vermont 4.8 5.6 6.4 6.9 0.4
  South Dakota 4.3 4.7 5.0 5.1 0.4
  Nebraska 4.0 4.4 4.7 4.7 1.0
  North Dakota 3.0 3.5 3.8 4.1 0.4

Prospects for additional improvement in state unemployment rates vary greatly. However, for the country as a whole, this economic recovery has been a mild one. Moreover it's not been especially broad-based. Consensus forecasts are for further moderate growth. To what degree that meaningfully lowers unemployment rates remains to be seen.

Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States March 2011 2010 2009 Labor Force
  Texas 7.0 7.9 8.2 7.5 12.5
  New York 8.5 8.2 8.6 8.3 9.5
  Ohio 7.5 8.6 10.0 10.1 5.8
  Washington 8.3 9.2 9.9 9.4 3.5
  Indiana 8.2 9.0 10.1 10.4 3.2
  Tennessee 7.9 9.2 9.8 10.5 3.1
  Maryland 6.6 7.1 7.8 7.4 3.1
  Arizona 8.6 9.5 10.5 9.9 3.0
  Wisconsin 6.8 7.5 8.4 8.8 3.1
  Arizona 8.6 9.5 10.5 9.9 3.0
  Colorado 7.8 8.3 8.9 8.1 2.7
  Louisiana 7.1 7.3 7.5 6.7 2.1

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

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