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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in January
by Charles Steindel  March 12, 2019

Mirroring with national figures, yesterday's BLS release showed that state payrolls were generally strong in January. Thirteen states (as these things go, a large fraction) reported statistically significant increases in jobs. In absolute numbers, North Carolina led the way with a 34,700 gain, while West Virginia saw its job count rise 1.1 percent. Ten states (including DC) registered declines in their point estimates of payrolls; none of these were deemed statistically significant, and only Oklahoma's 4,400 loss seems of any noticeable magnitude.

Patterns of job changes over the 12 months ending in January showed growth in the mid-section to be lower than most coastal areas. Arkansas is the only state on the right bank of the Mississippi to have experienced job growth as high as 1 percent. The New England states have also trailed national gains. No state reported a lower level of jobs in January 2019 than in January 2018, though Alaska's .1 percent increase was quite modest. Nevada (3.9 percent) and Utah (3.4 percent) report the strongest gains.

This release also includes the annual benchmark revisions of past numbers. Most states saw downward revisions to their December 2018 job counts, reflecting a combination of more complete raw data, updated seasonal adjustment factors, and revised estimates of trends reflecting the incorporation of more complete QCEW information. Far and away the largest of these cuts was the 3.6 percent downward adjustment to West Virginia's payrolls. All six of the New England states also were marked lower—this helps account for that region, which has for the most part been seen as strong, coming up a bit short in the latest 12 month growth marks. No large state saw an upward adjustment of any note (both California and New York were edged up slightly), and some saw downward adjustments of some magnitude. Along with New England's Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington all report downward revisions of more than .5 percent in their December job totals.

Unemployment rates were generally uniform across the nation in January. Alaska had the highest rate, at 6.5 percent, DC was at 5.4 percent, West Virginia at 5.2 percent, and Arizona and New Mexico both at 5.1 percent. Iowa and New Hampshire were the lowest at 2.4 percent. Forty-one states had unemployment rates between 2.5 percent and 4.5 percent (three had figures higher than 4.5 but lower than 5.0). As was the case for the payroll numbers, this release incorporates the annual benchmarking of the household survey. The results of that revision had been reported in a February 28 release.

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