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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in July
by Charles Steindel  August 17, 2018

July saw job gains in 42 states, though only 6 of those increases were deemed statistically significant by BLS, led by California’s 46,700 (0.3 percent) gain (Nevada had the largest percentage increase—0.7). It’s often the case that a state may report what appears to be a large gain, but, due to a number of factors such as the industry composition of the change, BLS will not view the move as statistically significant. Thus, Texas’s 23,500 increase in July (about 0.2 percent) was ruled insignificant. Of the 8 reported declines, only Vermont’s 2,200 loss (0.7 percent) was deemed to be significant. The Vermont drop seems to be importantly due to a large (for Vermont—the number of jobs shed was 700) decline in health sector jobs in the state.

Over the last 12 months, Vermont and Alaska were the only states whose job counts fell; in both cases the drops were not statistically significant. A handful of states (Maine, Connecticut, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, and North Dakota, as well as DC) had gains under 1.1 percent. Texas had the largest absolute gain (377,100, or 3.1 percent), while Utah reported a 3.5 percent increase. Once again, with the notable exception of Alaska, the fastest growing states appear to be in the West, with 5 states seeing gains of more than 3.1 percent since July 2017. No state east of the Mississippi saw job growth above 3 percent, and Florida and North Carolina were the only states in that half of the nation to report gains above 2 percent over the last year.

Unemployment rates in the lower 48 states continue to be in a fairly tight range, extending from the 2.6 percent in Iowa and North Dakota to West Virginia’s 5.4 percent (the four largest states--California, Texas, Florida, and New York--all had unemployment rates in July no more than .3 percentage point different than 4 percent). Hawaii and Alaska continue to be rather extreme outliers, with Hawaii’s rate staying at 2.2 percent in July, while Alaska’s edged down from 7.1 percent to 6.9 percent. July was the first month in two years Alaska’s unemployment rate was less than 7 percent.

Puerto Rico continues to struggle. While the island’s unemployment rate did edge down to 9.1 percent in July, the number of nonfarm jobs was virtually unchanged (up 100) and was more than 3 percent under the July 2017 (pre-Maria) mark.

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