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Economy in Brief

U.S. State Unemployment Rates Fall To New Lows
by Tom Moeller  January 28, 2015

The overall U.S. unemployment rate in December of 5.6% stood at its six-year low and remained down from 10.0% at the late-2009 peak. Variation in the level of unemployment amongst individual states continues, but a declining trend is evident almost everywhere. Louisiana (6.7%), South Carolina (6.5%), Washington (6.3), Vermont (4.2%) and North Dakota (2.8%), however, are notable examples where unemployment recently moved higher. Louisiana's unemployment rate, in fact, is up two percentage points since April. Mississippi's jobless rate of 7.2% was the country's highest, though it was down from 11.0% reached in early-2011. California's 7.0% also was comparatively high, but it was below the 2010 peak of 12.4%. Unemployment in Georgia remained elevated at 6.9%, but that too was below the 10.4% peak in early-2010. In Tennessee, last month's 6.6% rate neared its earlier low after backing up to 7.4% in August. Both rates compare favorably to the 2009 high of 11.0%. New York's unemployment rate of 5.8% compared to the 2009 peak of 8.9% and its rate of decline recently accelerated. The jobless rate in Texas was down to 4.6% from its 2010 high of 8.3%.

Amongst mid-sized states, Michigan's jobless rate fell to 6.3% after hovering near 7.5% this spring and summer. It's less than half the 14.2% peak in 2009. Florida's 5.6% rate of joblessness was a new low and compared to 11.4% at the 2009 peak. In Virginia, the jobless rate returned to 4.8% last month after backing up to 5.5% this summer. It was below the 7.4% peak reached late in 2009. Amongst smaller states, North Dakota's 2.8% unemployment rate was the country's lowest but up from its recent low of 2.5%. Connecticut saw its rate move downward to 6.4% from a 9.5% high. Nebraska's rate fell sharply to a new low of 2.9% versus its 4.9% peak early in 2010.

The unemployment rate figures in individual metropolitan areas, for the most part, continued to differ widely from the state numbers. Florida's 5.6% unemployment rate was below the 6.7% rate in the Miami metro area, and both were roughly half the 2010 figure. Michigan's 6.3% unemployment rate also was under the 7.5% figure around Detroit and both rates recently fell sharply. In 2009, Detroit's rate reached 16.0%. New York state's 5.8% unemployment rate was below the sharply reduced 6.3% in New York City while California's 7.0% rate was under the 7.9% around Los Angeles. Also, Ohio's 4.8% rate was well below Cleveland's of 5.9%. Working the other way, the Illinois unemployment rate of 6.2% was above the sharply reduced 5.9% around Chicago. Finally, Washington state's 6.3% jobless rate recently moved higher and exceeded Seattle's 4.6%, a new low.

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

Dec Nov 2014 2013 2012 2011 Labor Force

Total U.S. Unemployment Rate

5.6% 5.8% 6.1% 7.4% 8.1% 8.9% 155.7 million

Ten States With Highest Jobless Rate

  Mississippi 7.2 7.3 7.6 8.6 9.2 10.6 1.3
  California 7.0 7.2 7.6 8.9 10.4 11.8 18.6
  Georgia 6.9 7.2 7.4 8.2 9.0 9.9 4.8
  Nevada 6.8 6.9 7.7 9.8 11.5 13.3 1.4
  Tennessee 6.6 6.8 6.9 8.2 8.2 9.3 3.1
  Michigan 6.3 6.7 7.3 8.8 9.1 10.4 4.7
  Illinois 6.2 6.4 7.3 9.1 9.0 9.7 9.6
  New Jersey 6.2 6.4 6.7 8.2 9.3 9.3 4.6
  New York 5.8 5.9 6.5 7.7 8.5 8.3 9.6
  North Carolina 5.5 5.9 6.3 8.0 9.3 10.2 4.7
Ten States With Lowest Jobless Rate          
  Virginia 4.8 5.0 5.1 5.5 5.9 6.5 4.2 million
  Wyoming 4.2 4.5 4.3 4.6 5.4 6.1 0.3
  Vermont 4.2 4.4 3.9 4.3 4.9 5.6 0.4
  Iowa 4.1 4.3 4.4 4.7 5.2 5.8 1.6
  New Hampshire 4.0 4.1 4.4 5.3 5.5 5.5 0.7
  Hawaii 4.0 4.0 4.3 4.8 5.7 6.5 0.7
  Minnesota 3.6 3.7 4.4 5.0 5.6 6.5 3.0
  Utah 3.5 3.6 3.7 4.4 5.4 6.8 1.4
  Nebraska 2.9 3.1 3.5 3.9 4.0 4.5 1.0
  North Dakota 2.8 2.7 2.7 2.9 3.0 3.4 0.4
Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States          
  Louisiana 6.7 6.5 5.4 6.1 6.5 7.2 2.1 million
  Arizona 6.7 6.8 7.0 8.0 8.3 9.4 3.0
  Connecticut 6.4 6.5 6.7 7.8 8.3 8.9 1.8
  Washington 6.3 6.2 6.0 7.0 8.1 9.2 3.5
  New York 5.8 5.9 6.5 7.7 8.5 8.3 9.6
  Florida 5.6 5.8 6.1 7.2 8.8 10.3 9.4
  Massachusetts 5.5 5.8 6.0 7.1 6.8 7.3 3.5
  Wisconsin 5.2 5.2 5.7 6.7 6.9 7.5 3.1
  Ohio 4.8 5.0 5.7 7.3 7.4 8.7 5.7
  Texas 4.6 4.9 5.2 6.3 6.9 7.9 12.8
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