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Economy in Brief

U.S. State Unemployment Rates Vary By Three Times, Highest-to-Lowest
by Tom Moeller  August 19, 2013

The overall U.S. rate of unemployment of 7.4% stood last month at its lowest level since December 2008. Improvement has registered across the country and gained momentum in many states. While the country's overall jobless rate is down 2.2 percentage points from the peak 2010 average, Nevada's 9.5% rate is down 4.2 percentage points from 2010. Nevertheless, it remains three times the rate in North Dakota. Florida's 7.1% unemployment rate similarly is 4.2 percentage points below its annual peak. Another state with relatively high unemployment is Michigan. Here again, however, its 8.8% jobless rate is 3.9 percentage points lower than during 2010. Finally, California's rate of 8.7% is 3.6 percentage points below the 2010 high of 12.3%. 

States with relatively low unemployment have shown comparatively little improvement from the highs. In Texas, for example, the 6.5% jobless rate is down just 1.7 percentage points from 2010. Virginia's 5.7% jobless rate is down only 1.4 percentage points from the high of 7.1%. Utah has realized a bit more of an improvement. Its 4.6% unemployment rate is down 2.3 percentage points from the 6.9% high. The smallest improvement in the jobless rate has been in Nebraska where the current 4.2% unemployment rate is just 0.5 percentage points below the 4.7% high.  

The household employment survey also produces data on individual metropolitan areas. These figures, in a few circumstances, differ widely from the state numbers. Florida's 7.1% unemployment rate, for example differs greatly from 8.2% in the Miami metro area, although Miami's rate is down from 12.4% in 2010. Michigan's 8.8% rate also is under the 9.4% rate around Detroit. New York state's 7.5% is below the 8.4% in New York City while California's 8.7% rate is under 9.9% around Los Angeles. Running close to one another are the Illinois unemployment rate of 9.2% and the 9.4% rate around Chicago. Also, Ohio's 7.2% rate of joblessness is near Cleveland's of 7.1%. Working the other way is Washington state's 6.9% jobless rate as it by far exceeds Seattle's 4.8%.

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

State Unemployment Rate July June 2012 2011 2010 Labor Force
Total U.S. 7.4% 7.5% 8.1% 8.9% 9.6% 155.7 mil.
Ten States With Highest Jobless Rate
  Nevada 9.5 9.6 11.1 13.2 13.8 1.4
  Illinois 9.2 9.2 8.9 9.7 10.4 9.6
  North Carolina 8.9 8.8 9.5 10.3 10.8 4.7
  Michigan 8.8 8.7 9.1 10.4 12.7 4.7
  California 8.7 8.5 10.5 11.8 12.3 18.6
  New Jersey 8.6 8.7 9.5 9.3 9.6 4.6
  Tennessee 8.5 8.5 8.0 9.3 9.8 3.1
  Mississippi 8.5 9.0 9.1 10.5 10.5 1.3
  Indiana 8.4 8.4 8.4 9.0 10.1 3.2
  South Carolina 8.1 8.1 9.1 10.4 11.2 2.2
States With Lowest Jobless Rate July June 2012 2011 2010 Labor Force
  Virginia 5.7% 5.5% 5.9% 6.5% 7.1% 4.2 mil.
  New Hampshire 5.1 5.2 5.5 5.5 6.1 0.7
  Minnesota 5.2 5.2 5.6 6.5 7.3 3.0
  Iowa 4.8 4.6 5.2 5.9 6.3 1.6
  Wyoming 4.6 4.6 5.4 6.1 7.0 0.3
  Utah 4.6 4.7 5.7 6.9 8.1 1.4
  Vermont 4.6 4.4 5.0 5.6 6.4 0.4
  Hawaii 4.5 4.6 5.8 6.5 6.8 0.7
  Nebraska 4.2 4.0 3.9 4.5 4.7 1.0
  North Dakota 3.0 3.1 3.1 3.5 3.8 0.4
Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States July June 2012 2011 2010 Labor Force
  Connecticut 8.1% 8.1% 8.3% 8.9% 9.3% 1.8 mil.
  Arizona 8.0 8.0 8.3 9.4 10.4 3.0
  New York 7.5 7.5 8.5 8.3 8.6 9.6
  Ohio 7.2 7.2 7.2 8.6 10.0 5.7
  Massachusetts 7.2 7.0 6.7 7.3 8.3 3.5
  Florida 7.1 7.1 8.6 10.3 11.3 9.4
  Louisiana 7.0 7.0 6.4 7.3 7.4 2.1
  Washington 6.9 6.8 8.2 9.2 9.9 3.5
  Wisconsin 6.8 6.8 6.9 7.6 8.4 3.1
  Texas 6.5 6.5 6.8 8.0 8.2 12.8
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