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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in March
by Charles Steindel  April 19, 2019

For a second straight month, state payrolls were little-changed in March. Washington’s robust increase of 27,900 (0.8 percent) was the statistically significant change. However, most states reported gains in jobs. California and Texas had (insignificant) gains of more than 20,000. Along with Washington, these three states accounted for nearly one-half the total increase across the states (the sum of the states total of 153,900 was about 40,000 smaller than the national increase. The shortfall mostly reflected differences in the not-seasonally adjusted job movements). There has been some speculation that the floods in the Midwest may have held down job growth in the affected states. Indeed, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa reported small declines, but Missouri clocked an increase. The March story for 12-month changes in jobs was much the same as in February. Once again, Nevada, with a 3.4 percent gain, was the clear winner. As was the case for the preliminary February numbers, a total of 22 states had statistically significant job growth over the prior 12 months. As usual, growth was higher in the West, with Florida and West Virginia being the only Eastern states with job gains above 2 percent. No state (or DC) reported a loss, though the gains of less than 1,000 in Louisiana and Nebraska rounded down to percentage changes of zero.

As has been evident for some months, unemployment rates are fairly uniform and low across the nation. Small (in population, not land area) states are the exception: Alaska at 6.5 percent, DC at 5.6 percent, North Dakota and Vermont at 2.3, and Iowa and New Hampshire at 2.4. Every other state reports an unemployment rate in the 2.8 to 5.1 percent range.

Puerto Rico remains mired. The island’s job count ticked down in March (private sector jobs did edge up a little bit), and the unemployment rate, which has been on a downtrend, moved up from 8.5 to 8.8 percent, even as the labor force fell.

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