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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in October
by Charles Steindel  November 16, 2018

State labor markets were noticeably stronger in October than September. Nine states were reported to have had statistically significant increases in payroll employment, although the gains in the Carolinas doubtlessly reflected in large part rebounds from Florence. A number of states reported declines in the point estimates of jobs, though none, not even Wisconsin’s drop of 3,500, were considered to be statistically significant. On the flip side, seemingly large increases in New York—22,000—and Pennsylvania—18,500—were not viewed as statistically different from zero (New Jersey’s 17,400 gain, though, was viewed as significant. The state that John Nash called home is better at math than its neighbors). The sum of the state figures shows a whopping gain of more than 300,000, compared to the national survey’s figure of 250,000.

The convergence story continues to hold. Vermont was the only state to see job losses over the last 12 months; Alaska has now joined the growth club, while forty-two states report gains between 1.1% and 3.0% over the year (Illinois is the only very large state to have seen growth less than 1.1%, and its increase rounds up to 1.0%). The largest gain was Nevada’s 3.4%; less than some of the more outsized numbers earlier seen. Again, the gaps in unemployment rates across states are narrowing. Alaska is still farthest north in this as well as latitude; likewise, Hawaii on the other side. But Alaska’s rate edged down to 6.4% in October, while Hawaii bumped up to 2.3%. In the lower 48 states, the gap between Iowa (2.4%) and West Virginia (5.2%) does not appear to be extreme, as these things go (the unemployment rate in the District of Columbia was 5.6% in October).

Puerto Rico continues to struggle. Nonfarm payroll employment on the island edged down 300 in October. The 12-month figure was up 2.0%, but, of course, the comparison month was one in the immediate wake of Maria. The unemployment rate did fall noticeably, from 8.4% to 8.0% (this would seem to be the lowest rate in at least 40 years), however, October’s drop reflected a marked decline in the labor force—the household employment figure fell.

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