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Economy in Brief

State Payroll Employment Growth Modest in March
by Charles Steindel  April 23, 2018

State payroll employment numbers, like those of the nation as a whole, suggest a slowing in March. The sum of the reported changes in jobs over the 50 states and DC was 148,200—not appreciably different than the national survey’s result of a 103,000 gain.

Looking at the state detail, BLS reports that only two states (Texas and Utah) had statistically significant gains in employment in March. Most states, though, did post positive prints on their point estimates of job change from February to March. Determination as to whether a state change is statistically significant rests on industry details, and can often go counter to intuition. Of course, New York’s report of a 500 increase in its payroll count was not statistically significant. But it’s a bit surprising that Ohio’s reported gain of more than 10,000 (which if sustained over 12 months would boost the state’s job count by more than 2 percent) was not. Of the states that reported declines, Georgia’s loss of 7,400 jobs seems most notable (Georgia’s job count is a bit smaller than Ohio’s) but was not deemed statistically significant.

Looking over the 12 months ending in March 2018, only Alaska and South Dakota reported job losses over that period. Surprisingly, only 24 states were deemed to have experienced statistically significant gains over that period. California reported a whopping 321,000 increase, but in percentage terms Utah and Idaho both had growth of 3.3 percent.

The state report also contains numbers from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico did report a small gain of 1,600 jobs in March, but compared to a year ago, the number of jobs on the island was down by nearly 36,000, or more than 4 percent. Over the last year employment in Puerto Rico has fallen in virtually all sectors, including marked drops in state and local government (the small federal job presence has been basically unchanged). In a hopeful sign of recovery, leisure and hospitality employment rebounded markedly in late 2017 and has continued to edge up, though the number of jobs in this sector is still below its pre-Maria level.

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