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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in December
by Charles Steindel  January 18, 2019

State labor markets were generally strong in December, though only eight were reported to have had statistically significant gains from November. The three largest increases (Texas, Florida, and Georgia) totaled more than 77,000, accounting for about 30 percent of the aggregate rise at the state level (this was 261,200, noticeably smaller than the national figure of 312,000). 38 other states, along with DC, reported statistically insignificant increases in jobs; 5 (Maine, New Jersey, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia) reported insignificant losses (in Vermont's case the loss was said to be 200—though that's from a small base of only a bit over 300,000 jobs).

As was the case last month, over the last 12-month period Alaska and Vermont were the only states reported job losses (they total 600 in the two states). Only 5 states and DC saw job growth below 1.1%; this compares to November's count of 10 (plus DC) in this group. 5 states—all in the West had job growth above 3%, led by Nevada's 3.9%. The November count of high growth states over 12 months had been 5. The upshot is that 40 states have seen job gains between 1.1% and 3.0% over the last year, suggesting that the general theme of convergence in growth still holds. The range of unemployment rates remains unchanged at 2.4% to 6.3%, with Alaska remaining on top and Iowa still at the bottom (Hawaii edged up to 2.5%). West Virginia and DC are the other localities with unemployment rates above 5% (Louisiana went down to 4.9%). There are a total of 10 states with unemployment rates under 3% and, again, Virginia, is the only large state in this group.

Puerto Rico reported a 2,400 gain in nonfarm payroll employment, reversing most of November's loss. The unemployment rate on the island moved up to 8.3%, even as the labor force continued to fall. Over the past year, the job count in Puerto Rice has moved up by 6,700, even though government employment was down 3,900. Despite these gains, the number of private-sector jobs remains below the pre-Maria level, and more than 100,000 under the 2006 peak.

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