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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in July
by Charles Steindel  August 16, 2019

Most states saw little or no change in the number of jobs in July. Five states report statistically significant gains. Texas’s 35,200 was the largest absolute increase; Utah’s 0.7% gain was the largest percentage rise. Florida was the only eastern state to see a significant rise. Sixteen states reported point declines in jobs; many of these were quite small by any reckoning (three of them report job losses of 100). While none of these declines were statistically significant, every one of these states, except Alaska, is either east of, or bordering, the Mississippi River. Taking a longer horizon, twenty-five states had significantly higher levels of jobs in July 2019 than in July 2018; that number is a bit lower than those we’ve seen recently. Nevada and Utah were tied for the top spot in the rate of job growth, with a 3.1 percent increase over the last 12 months. Louisiana reported another 12-month decline (not statistically significant). As has been the case over the last few months, job growth in the West has been notably stronger than in the East, with Florida again being the only Eastern state with notably rapid job gains (2.6%). Job growth in major Midwest and Northeastern industrial states has been more tepid, with New Jersey’s 1.2% increase being the best of the lot.

Unemployment rates were basically little-changed, though Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, and New Jersey hit “all-time” lows (the current series start in 1976). Alaska continues to have far and away the highest rate in the nation, at 6.3% (DC stayed at 5.6%; no other state was above 4.9%). Vermont’s rate remains an astonishing 2.1%, and Washington state’s unchanged 4.6% continues to be somewhat puzzling in light of the state’s job growth (Washington’s job count rose a hefty 13,400--0.4%--in July).

Underscoring its recent political turmoil is Puerto Rico’s soft labor market. The number of the jobs on the island fell by 2,500 in July. However, this contrasts with a stronger household report, which shows the unemployment rate falling from 8.4% to 8.1%, despite a 5,400 increase in the labor force.

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