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Economy in Brief

U.S. State Unemployment Rates Vary Greatly
by Tom Moeller  November 20, 2015

The overall U.S. unemployment rate declined during October to 5.0%, half its late-2009 peak. Falling jobless rates occurred throughout the country, but there was great variation amongst individual states. The country's largest states realized great improvement in labor market conditions. California's comparatively high 5.8% jobless rate was sharply below the 2010 high of 12.2%. Unemployment in Illinois of 5.4% also was comparatively high, but down from the peak of 11.2%. The jobless rate in Texas was down to 4.4% from its 2009 high of 8.4%. In Tennessee, last month's 5.6% rate compared to the 2009 high of 11.1%. 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. The 5.0% rate was down from 6.4% at the end of last year, and compared to the 14.9% peak in 2009. Florida's 5.1% rate of joblessness compared to 11.2% at the 2009 peak and Virginia at 4.2% was below the 7.4% peak. Amongst smaller states, Vermont's decline in the unemployment rate stalled this year at 3.7% but compared to a high of 7.0%, while Connecticut saw its rate fall to 5.1% from 9.1% at its peak. North Dakota's rate at 2.8% remains near last year's rate but still is lower than the 2009 high of 4.3%. Nebraska's rate fell to 2.9% from the 4.8% peak.

The unemployment rate figures in individual metropolitan areas continued, in most circumstances, to differ widely from the state numbers. Florida's 5.1% unemployment rate was below the 5.8% in the Miami metro area, although Miami's rate was down from 12.0% reached in 2009. Michigan's 5.0% jobless rate also was under the 5.7% jobless rate around Detroit. In 2009, it reached 16.3%. New York state's 4.8% unemployment rate equaled the rate in New York City, while California's 5.8% rate stood near the 6.1% around Los Angeles. Ohio's 4.4% rate was near Cleveland's of 4.7%. Also close to one another were the Illinois unemployment rate of 5.4% and the 5.3% rate around Chicago. Working the other way were Washington state's 5.2% jobless rate which exceeded Seattle's 3.8%.

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

Oct Sep 2014 2013 2012 Labor Force

Total U.S. Unemployment Rate

5.0% 5.1% 6.1 7.4% 8.1% 157.0 million

Ten States With Highest Jobless Rate

  Nevada 6.6 6.7 7.7 9.4 11.1 1.4
  Alaska 6.4 6.4 6.8 6.9 7.1 0.4
  Mississippi 5.9 6.1 7.6 8.4 9.0 1.3
  California 5.8 5.9 7.5 8.8 10.2 19.0
  Georgia 5.7 5.8 7.1 8.0 9.0 4.7
  North Carolina 5.7 5.8 6.1 7.8 9.1 4.8
  Tennessee 5.6 5.7 6.6 7.6 7.8 3.0
  Illinois 5.4 5.4 7.0 8.8 9.0 6.5
  New Jersey 5.4 5.6 6.6 8.0 9.2 4.5
  Michigan 5.0 5.0 7.1 8.5 9.1 4.7
Ten States With Lowest Jobless Rate        
  Virginia 4.2 4.3 5.1 5.5 5.9 4.2 million
  Wyoming 4.0 4.0 4.3 4.7 5.3 0.3
  Vermont 3.7 3.7 4.1 4.4 4.9 0.3
  Minnesota 3.7 3.8 4.0 4.8 5.5 3.0
  Utah 3.6 3.6 3.7 4.4 5.4 1.5
  Iowa 3.5 3.6 4.3 4.7 5.0 1.7
  New Hampshire 3.3 3.4 4.3 5.1 5.5 0.7
  Hawaii 3.3 3.4 4.4 4.8 6.0 0.7
  Nebraska 2.9 2.9 3.3 3.7 3.9 1.0
  North Dakota 2.8 2.8 2.7 2.9 3.0 0.4
Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States        
  Louisiana 6.2 6.0 6.3 6.5 7.0 2.2 million
  Arizona 6.1 6.3 6.8 7.5 8.3 3.0
  Washington 5.2 5.2 6.3 6.9 8.0 3.5
  Connecticut 5.1 5.2 6.6 7.6 8.3 1.9
  Florida 5.1 5.2 6.1 7.0 8.3 9.6
  New York 4.8 5.1 6.2 7.5 8.4 9.6
  Massachusetts 4.6 4.6 5.7 6.6 6.7 3.6
  Texas 4.4 4.2 5.0 6.0 6.6 13.0
  Ohio 4.4 4.5 5.6 7.3 7.4 5.7
  Wisconsin 4.3 4.3 5.5 6.6 7.0 3.1
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