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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in November
by Charles Steindel  December 21, 2018

Reflecting the somewhat softer tone of the national report, only four states were considered to have statistically significant changes (all increases) in payroll employment in November: California, Florida, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. The other 46 states (and DC) had statistically insignificant gains and losses (only in Texas would a 14,000 job gain be seen as “insignificant,” but putting that change in the context of a job base of nearly 13 million shows why that is the case).

Once again, the 12-month changes show job growth is converging across the nation. Only 3 states saw job gains above 3% in that period led by Nevada’s 3.8%. There does appear to be a somewhat greater tendency toward softness; 10 states (including DC in this group) had job gains under 1.0%, with two (Vermont and Alaska) experiencing declines. The range of unemployment rates has continued to narrow; with Alaska (the high state) edging down to 6.3% and Hawaii up a notch to 2.4% (Hawaii is now tied with Iowa for the lowest rate). West Virginia, Louisiana, and DC report rates above 5%, while Idaho, North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Vermont, Virginia, and New Hampshire join Hawaii and Iowa with rates under 3%. Note that Virginia (and arguably Minnesota) is the only larger state with an unemployment rate that looks like a notable outlier.

Puerto Rico’s labor market remains bleak. Nonfarm employment fell by 3,100 in November, though the level was 1% higher than the year-earlier figure (which was in the near-aftermath of Maria). The unemployment rate looks reasonably good, falling from 8.0% to 7.7%, which is a remarkably low figure for Puerto Rico. However, this decline, like the comparable one in October, reflects another sharp drop in the island’s labor force which, according to the data, has fallen an astonishing 1.7% over the last two months.

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