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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in August
by Charles Steindel  September 20, 2019

State labor markets were mixed in August. Five states experienced statistically significant increases in payroll employment, with 3 (Arizona, Georgia and Kansas) .4 percent or higher. California had the largest numerical gain, but the 34,500 increase was a fairly small .2 percent in light of the number of jobs in the state. On the negative side, Oklahoma's 8,700 loss (.5 percent) was the only one deemed statistically significant, but 15 other states report declines in payrolls (Indiana's 8,500 loss was nearly as large as Oklahoma's. It's a bit surprising that a loss of this magnitude--.3%--wasn't seen as statistically notable). 12-month job gains have also cooled off. Nevada is now the only state with a 3 handle on its percentage gain (3.0, to be exact). Nineteen states, mainly in the Middle West and Northeast, report job growth of 1.0 percent or less over the last 12 months. New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan are in the group (the 12-month point increases in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan were not statistically significant). It remains the case that Western states are the leaders in job growth; Alabama and Florida are the only states in the East that have seen payrolls expand at 2 percent or higher. On the positive side, for the first time in some while, all states report some growth in jobs over the last year.

Some divergence has recently developed between the national job figures and those reported at the state level. Over the last 6 months the national count has risen by 898 thousand; the sum of the state figure has a gain of 1.056 million. Divergences of even larger magnitude are not uncommon; the currently reported data shows an increase of 1.296 million for the national total over the 6 months ending in September 2018, while the sum of the states figure is shown as rising only 713 thousand in that period.

The household survey figures show that low unemployment rates are common across the nation. Alaska remains the great high side outlier, with a rate of 6.2 percent, but Mississippi and Arizona had rates of 5 percent or higher. 12 states had unemployment rates under 3 percent, with Vermont's rate remaining an astonishing 2.1 percent. Puerto Rico's rate fell .4 percentage points to 7.7 percent, and the island's job count, though down slightly from July, was above August 2018.

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