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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in September
by Charles Steindel  October 19, 2018

The state data suggest that September was a month of quite limited growth. According to BLS, only one state (Georgia) reported a statistically significant gain in jobs. Three states saw declines, though in two of these (the Carolinas) Hurricane Florence surely had a decided negative impact (Kansas was the other state to report a statistically significant loss of jobs). A dozen states saw not-statistically significant declines in jobs, while the other thirty-five (including DC) reported comparably (statistically) small increases. The sum of the changes across the states was 87,500, compared to the 134,000 increased reported for the national survey. September, though, is a change of marked seasonal job gains—the boost to public education employment exceeds the loss of temporary private jobs—but these swings differ a lot across states. Indeed, not-seasonally-adjusted, the states report job growth of 399,000, larger than the national figure of 350,000. The upshot is that September, typically a rather confusing month for jobs due to seasonal swings, remained so this year, with the added complication of Florence.

Job growth at longer horizons has been converging across the states. Only five states (Washington, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Florida) report increase above 3.1% over the last twelve months. Alaska and Vermont were again the only states to report losses. Thirty-four states saw job growth between 1.0% and 3.0%. Unemployment rates are also converging. Once again, Alaska (6.5%) and Hawaii (2.2%) are the outliers—though Alaska's rate has been on a noticeably decline in recent months. Thirty-seven states have unemployment rates ranging from 3.0% to 4.9%.

One year after Maria, Puerto Rico reports that its job count is down 1.9% over the last 12 months. The lion's share of that loss is in government and education and health services. The island's unemployment rate in September was 8.4%; down from August's 8.8% and well below the 10.6% of September 2017. Surprisingly, the labor force is reported to be larger than it was last September—the unemployment drop would then be chalked up to a quite marked gain in household employment. Of course, this is at odds with the job count; given the reports of large outmigration from Puerto Rico it may well be that the population benchmarks used to establish the figures on the labor force and resident employment are subject to unusually large margins of error.

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