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Economy in Brief

U.S. State Unemployment Continues to Range Widely
by Tom Moeller  April 26, 2017

As the unemployment rate declined last month to a 10-year low of 4.5%, it continued to reflect widely divergent rates amongst the states. At the high end were two states which realized unemployment above 6.0%. At the low end, were several states below 3.0%.

New Mexico's jobless rate topped the charts at 6.7%. It has risen from 6.4% in early-2015. Employment and labor force growth have been subdued near 1.0%. Alaska's unemployment rate also remained high at 6.4%, but it recently trended lower as employment growth picked up to 1.2% y/y after a modest decline last year. Alabama registered a high unemployment rate of 5.8%, but that was down from 6.4% in January as employment grew 2.1% y/y. In Georgia, the jobless rate fell sharply to a still-high 5.1%. Its decline has been accompanied by roughly 3.0% growth in the labor force set against 0.6% in the country overall. In Pennsylvania, unemployment of 4.8% was down from 5.4% during the last twelve months and stood at its ten-year low. Employment grew 0.7% y/y versus no growth in the labor force.

At the low end of the range in unemployment stood Colorado at 2.6%. Employment increased 2.9% during the last year while the labor force grew 2.1%. New England also experienced low unemployment. In New Hampshire, an unemployment rate of 2.8% reflected just 0.8% y/y growth in both employment and the labor force. Perhaps more dynamic were the results in Maine where a record-low jobless rate of 3.0% reflected 3.0% y/y growth in jobs accompanied by 2.2% y/y growth in the labor force. A higher 3.6% unemployment in Massachusetts reflected 2.6% y/y growth in jobs and 2.1% growth in the labor pool. Further to the west, Indiana registered 3.9% unemployment as employment grew 1.0% y/y, but the labor force was little-changed.

Amongst other large states, Ohio's 5.1% rate of unemployment reflected roughly 0.8% y/y in both jobs & the size of the labor force. Texas unemployment at 5.0% occurred as employment grew 1.9% y/y and the labor force expanded 2.4% y/y. Similarly, North Carolina's 4.9% unemployment reflected 2.4% y/y growth in employment and a 2.2% rise in the labor force. At the low end of the range amongst large states was Wisconsin which experienced 3.4% unemployment as employment rose 1.5% y/y, twice the growth in the labor force.

Within large cities, New York City's jobless rate plummeted to 4.0% from a 2009 high of 10.2%, reflecting 2.7% employment growth this past year, and a 1.5% y/y gain in the labor force. Unemployment in New York state was a slightly higher 4.3%, down from a 2009 high of 8.9%. Unemployment around Chicago at 4.6% is down from a 2010 high of 11.4%, compared to 4.9% in all of Illinois. The city's low jobless rate reflected, however, employment that was little changed this past year set against a 1.6% y/y decline in the labor force. California's 4.9% unemployment rate slightly exceeded the 4.6% rate around Los Angeles where employment grew 2.0% y/y and the labor force expanded 1.2%. In Washington State, 4.7% unemployment compared to 3.3% around Seattle where a 3.7% y/y gain in employment was accompanied by a 2.6% rise in the laborforce.

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

Mar Feb 2016 2015 2014 Labor Force

Total U.S. Unemployment Rate (%)

4.5% 4.7% 4.8 5.3 6.2 159.5 million

Ten States With Highest Jobless Rate

  New Mexico 6.7 6.8 6.7 6.5 6.7 0.9
  Alaska 6.4 6.4 6.6 6.4 6.9 0.4
  Alabama 5.8 6.2 6.0 6.1 6.7 2.2
  Louisiana  5.7 5.8 6.1 6.3 6.3 2.1
  Georgia 5.1 5.3 5.4 5.9 7.0 4.9
  West Virginia 4.9 5.2 6.0 6.7 6.6 0.8
  California 4.9 5.0 5.4 6.2 7.5 19.1
  Illinois 4.9 5.4 5.9 5.9 7.0 6.5
  Pennsylvania 4.8 5.0 5.5 5.3 5.8 6.4
  Washington 4.7 4.9 5.4 5.6 6.1 3.6
Ten States With Lowest Jobless Rate    
  Indiana 3.9 4.1 4.5 4.8 5.9 3.3
  Minnesota 3.8 4.0 3.9 3.8 4.1 3.0
  Arkansas 3.6 3.7 4.0 5.0 6.0 1.3
  Massachusetts 3.6 3.4 3.7 4.8 5.7 3.6
  Iowa 3.1 3.2 3.7 3.8 4.2 1.7
  Maine 3.0 3.2 3.9 4.3 5.6 0.7
  New Hampshire 2.8 2.7 2.8 3.4 4.3 0.7
  South Dakota 2.8 2.8 2.8 3.1 3.4 0.5
  Hawaii 2.7 2.8 3.0 3.6 4.4 0.7
  Colorado 2.6 2.9 3.3 3.8 4.9 2.9
Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States    
  Ohio 5.1 5.1 5.0 4.9 5.7 5.7
  Michigan 5.1 5.3 5.0 5.4 7.1 4.8
  Texas 5.0 4.9 4.7 4.4 5.0 13.3
  Arizona  5.0 5.1 5.2 5.9 6.7 3.2
  North Carolina 4.9 5.1 5.1 5.7 6.2 4.9
  Florida 4.8 5.0 4.9 5.3 6.2 9.8
  New York 4.3 4.4 4.9 5.3 6.3 9.6
  New Jersey 4.2 4.5 5.0 5.8 6.7 4.5
  Maryland 4.3 4.2 4.3 5.0 5.8 3.2
  Wisconsin 3.4 3.7 4.2 4.5 5.4 3.1
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