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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in September
by Charles Steindel  October 18, 2019

State labor markets were on the soft side in September. Only three states (Hawaii, Idaho, and Kentucky—clearly a group with little in common!) reported statistically significant gains, while two (New Hampshire and Virginia) had statistically significant declines. 22 states report declines in their point estimates of payrolls. Most of the increases, aside from the three just mentioned, look unimpressive (California's 21,300 gain was obviously small relative to the state's size, as was Florida's 11,100, and increases smaller than eight thousand in New York and Texas. This moderation is also evident in the 12-month gains. While all states, and DC, showed some increase in this period, 20 had increases of 1.0 percent or less. Three states, though (Nevada, Idaho, and Utah), had increases of 3.0 percent or more. In general, as has persistently been the case, Western states have shown the strongest gains, though Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina are also fairly high in the ranks. Lower gains were in a broad belt stretching from Massachusetts to Montana, along with Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Breaking with a recent trend, national job growth in September, measured as the sum of changes from the states, was smaller than the figure coming from the national survey. The two totals were 72,500 for the sum of the states vs. the national figure of 136.00.

Unemployment rates were generally little-changed, with many states at all-time lows for the current series. South Carolina had the most striking decline, from 3.2 percent to 2.9 percent. Vermont's rate inched up from 2.1 percent to 2.2 percent, but it remains the national leader. As is seemingly always the case, Alaska is the high state, at 6.2 percent, and Mississippi and DC are the other places with unemployment rates above 5 percent (Arizona slipped to 4.9 percent).

Puerto Rico not only recently dodged the worse of Hurricane Dorian, but also had some respectable labor market news. The island's unemployment rate continues to move down, reaching 7.6 percent in September (aided, however, by a drop in the labor force), while the number of jobs rose by 2,700 to set a new post-Maria high. Private sector employment in Puerto Rico is now higher than it's been since early 2015.

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