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Economy in Brief

U.S. State Unemployment Rates Trend Lower but Vary Widely
by Tom Moeller  May 27, 2015

The overall U.S. unemployment rate in April of 5.4% stood at its lowest point since August 2008, remaining down from the late-2009 peak of 10.0%. The same declining trend is certainly evident amongst the states, but great variation continues to exist from one state to another. The lowest rates of joblessness are evident in less populated states such as Nebraska (2.5%), North Dakota (3.1%), Utah (3.4%), Vermont (3.6%), Wyoming (4.1%) and Delaware (4.5%). A few of the more populated states, however, are at the low end of the scale. These include Minnesota (3.7%), Texas (4.2%), Wisconsin (4.4%) and Virginia (4.8%).

In general, unemployment runs higher in states with bigger populations. These include South Carolina (6.7%), New Jersey (6.5%), California (6.3%), Georgia (6.3%), Illinois (6.0%), Tennessee (6.0%) and New York. Higher rates of unemployment are not, however, only to be found in large states. Several of the smallest states are experiencing high levels of unemployment, including Nevada (7.1%), West Virginia (where it recently jumped to 7.0%), New Mexico (6.2%), as well as Puerto Rico (12.2%) and the District of Columbia (7.5%).

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 6.2% rate in the Miami metro area. Both were, however, roughly half the 2010 figure. Michigan's 5.4% unemployment rate also was under the 6.2% figure around Detroit, and both rates recently fell sharply. In 2009, Detroit's rate reached 16.0%. New York state's 5.7% unemployment rate was below the sharply reduced 6.5% in New York City while California's 6.3% rate was under the 7.6% rate around Los Angeles. Also, Ohio's 5.2% rate was below Cleveland's of 5.8%. Working the other way, Washington state's 5.5% jobless rate exceeded Seattle's 4.3%.

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

Apr Mar 2014 2013 2012 2011 Labor Force

Total U.S. Unemployment Rate

5.4% 5.5% 6.1% 7.4% 8.1% 8.9% 155.9 million
Ten States With Lowest Jobless Rate          
  Virginia 4.8 4.8 5.2 5.7 6.0 6.6 4.3 million
  Delaware 4.5 4.6 5.7 6.7 7.2 7.5 0.5
  Wyoming 4.1 4.1 4.3 4.7 5.3 5.8 0.3
  New Hampshire 3.8 3.9 4.3 5.1 5.5 5.4 0.7
  Iowa 3.8 4.0 4.4 4.8 5.1 5.6 1.7
  Minnesota 3.7 3.8 4.1 5.0 5.6 6.5 3.0
  Vermont 3.6 3.8 4.1 4.4 5.0 5.5 0.3
  Utah 3.4 3.4 3.8 4.7 5.4 6.7 1.4
  North Dakota 3.1 3.1 2.8 2.9 3.1 3.5 0.4
  Nebraska 2.5 2.6 3.3 3.8 4.0 4.4 1.0

Ten States With Highest Jobless Rate

  Nevada 7.1 7.1 7.8 9.6 11.2 13.1 1.4
  South Carolina 6.7 6.7 6.4 7.6 9.2 10.6 2.2
  New Jersey 6.5 6.5 6.7 8.1 9.3 9.3 4.5
  California 6.3 6.5 7.5 8.9 10.4 11.7 18.8
  Georgia 6.3 6.3 7.2 8.2 9.2 10.2 4.8
  Tennessee 6.0 6.3 6.7 7.8 7.8 9.0 3.0
  Illinois 6.0 6.0 7.1 9.1 9.0 9.7 6.5
  New York 5.7 5.7 6.3 7.7 8.5 8.3 9.6
  North Carolina 5.5 5.4 6.1 7.9 9.2 10.2 4.7
  Michigan 5.4 5.6 7.3 8.9 9.1 10.4 4.8
Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States          
  Louisiana 6.6 6.6 6.4 6.7 7.1 7.8 2.2 million
  Arizona 6.0 6.2 6.9 7.8 8.4 9.5 3.1
  New York 5.7 5.7 6.3 7.7 8.5 8.3 9.6
  Florida 5.6 5.7 6.3 7.3 8.5 10.0 9.6
  Washington 5.5 5.9 6.2 7.0 8.1 9.2 3.05
  Indiana 5.4 5.8 6.0 7.7 8.3 9.1 3.2
  Ohio 5.2 5.1 5.7 7.5 7.4 8.8 5.7
  Massachusetts 4.7 4.8 5.8 6.7 6.7 7.3 3.6
  Wisconsin 4.4 4.6 5.5 6.8 7.0 7.8 3.1
  Texas 4.2 4.2 5.1 6.2 6.7 7.7 13.1
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