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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Rate Decline Varies Greatly by State
by Tom Moeller  July 21, 2017

Unemployment at a 10-year low of 4.5% reflected 1.4% y/y growth in employment and a dampened 0.8% gain in the size of the labor pool. Amongst the states, unemployment continued to be widely divergent. Two states held above the 6.0% level while many were 3% or lower.

Alaska's unemployment rate topped the unemployment rate chart at 6.8%. It's been moving higher since the March low of 6.4% as labor force growth outpaced the 1.7% y/y gain in employment. New Mexico's jobless rate also remained high at 6.4%. Employment and labor force growth remain subdued near 1.0%. In Louisiana, the unemployment has fallen to a still high 5.5% as the labor force dipped y/y while employment rose slightly following last year's 1.8% decline. Pennsylvania's unemployment rate of 5.0% was down from 5.5% during the last twelve months and stood near its ten-year low. Employment grew 1.0% y/y versus 0.5% growth in the labor force. In California, the 4.7% jobless rate compared to 12.1% averaged in 2010. Its recent decline reflects 1.1% y/y growth in employment and little y/y change in the size of the labor pool. New York's unemployment rate recently ticked up to 4.5%. Employment grew a quickened 2.0% y/y against accelerated 1.7% growth in the labor force.

At the low end of the unemployment range stood Massachusetts at 4.3% where employment grew 2.7% y/y, the same as the labor force. Unemployment in New Jersey at 4.1% reflected sub-par 1.1% growth in employment; however, the labor force remained little changed y/y, its size down nearly two percent since 2012. Maine's unemployment rate recently rose to 3.5% as employment and labor force growth decelerated. Indiana's jobless rate of 3.0% also was down sharply from a 10.4% high in 2009 as employment grew 1.7% y/y and the labor force held steady y/y. Unemployment in Colorado plummeted to the country's low at 2.3% as 4.1% growth in employment was accompanied by 2.9% growth in the labor force.

Amongst other large states, Arizona's 5.1% rate of unemployment reflected 2.9% y/y employment growth and a 2.7% gain in the size of the labor force. Texas unemployment of 4.6% occurred as employment and the labor force grew 1.7% y/y. Similarly, North Carolina's unemployment rate of 4.2% was the lowest since 2000 as employment grew 1.9% y/y against 1.1% labor force growth. At the low end of the range amongst large states was Wisconsin. It experienced 3.1% unemployment as employment rose 2.6% y/y, still nearly twice the growth in the labor force.

Within large cities, New York City's 4.4% jobless rate compared to a 2009 high of 10.2%. This past year's rate decline reflected accelerated 4.0% employment growth and a 3.0% y/y gain in the labor force. Unemployment around Chicago of 4.3% was down from a 2010 high of 11.4%. The city's low jobless rate reflected, however, no change in employment this past year set against a 1.6% y/y decline in the labor force. The 4.4% unemployment rate around Los Angeles was the product of 2.5% y/y employment growth and labor force growth of 1.6% y/y. Cleveland's unemployment rate recently increased to 5.9% from 5.0% during all of 2015 as employment was little changed y/y while the labor force grew 1.0% y/y. In Washington state, Seattle's unemployment rate of 3.4% reflected 2.0% y/y employment growth and a 1.3% rise in the labor force.

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

Jun May 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

  Alaska 6.8 6.7 6.6 6.4 6.9 0.4
  New Mexico 6.4 6.6 6.7 6.5 6.7 0.9
  Louisiana  5.5 5.7 6.1 6.3 6.3 2.1
  Arizona 5.1 5.1 5.2 5.9 6.7 3.2
  Pennsylvania 5.0 5.0 5.5 5.3 5.8 6.4
  Georgia 4.8 4.9 5.4 5.9 7.0 4.9
  West Virginia 4.6 4.5 6.0 6.7 6.6 0.8
  California 4.7 4.7 5.4 6.2 7.5 19.1
  Illinois 4.7 4.6 5.9 5.9 7.0 6.5
  New York 4.5 4.4 4.9 5.3 6.3 9.5
Ten States With Lowest Jobless Rate    
  Massachusetts 4.3 4.2 3.7 4.8 5.7 3.6
  New Jersey 4.1 4.1 5.0 5.8 6.7 4.5
  Minnesota 3.7 3.7 3.9 3.8 4.1 3.0
  Maine 3.5 3.2 3.9 4.3 5.6 0.7
  Arkansas 3.4 3.4 4.0 5.0 6.0 1.3
  Indiana 3.0 3.2 4.5 4.8 5.9 3.3
  South Dakota 3.0 2.9 2.8 3.1 3.4 0.5
  New Hampshire 2.9 2.9 2.8 3.4 4.3 0.7
  Hawaii 2.7 2.7 3.0 3.6 4.4 0.7
  Colorado 2.3 2.3 3.3 3.8 4.9 2.9
Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States    
  Arizona  5.1 5.1 5.2 5.9 6.7 3.2
  Ohio 5.0 4.9 5.0 4.9 5.7 5.7
  Texas 4.6 4.8 4.7 4.4 5.0 13.3
  New York 4.5 4.4 4.9 5.3 6.3 9.6
  North Carolina 4.2 4.5 5.1 5.7 6.2 4.9
  Florida 4.1 4.3 4.9 5.3 6.2 9.8
  New Jersey 4.1 4.1 5.0 5.8 6.7 4.5
  Maryland 4.1 4.2 4.3 5.0 5.8 3.2
  Michigan 3.8 4.2 5.0 5.4 7.1 4.8
  Wisconsin 3.1 3.1 4.2 4.5 5.4 3.1
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