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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in December
by Charles Steindel  January 24, 2020

Only three states were considered to have statistically significant changes (all increases) in payroll employment in November: Texas, Washington, and Arkansas. 32 states (including here Washington DC) had nonsignificant point increases, while 16 saw nonsignificant declines (though it is a bit surprising that Kentucky's 5,400 decline, Missouri's 8,500 loss, and Pennsylvania's 9,700 fell below the standards for statistical significance. On the other side, Wisconsin's pickup of 9,800 jobs was also not considered to be significant.) In general, the state reports had a bit softer tone than the national release: the aggregate increase in jobs across the states was an unimpressive 114,000, compared to the national figure of 145,000.

Utah was the only state to see job growth above 3% over the 12 months ending in December. Five states (Iowa, Oklahoma, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming) lost jobs over the course of 2019—at least according to this preliminary report (the annual benchmark revision to the state labor market numbers will be released in early March). In general, states in the Middle West (ranging a bit west to Montana and Wyoming, and east to Pennsylvania and New Jersey) and the Ohio- Mississippi Valley saw low growth; states in the West saw notably larger gains. Unemployment rates are generally low. Alaska is again the high outlier, at 6.1%, with Mississippi, DC, and West Virginia also having rates with 5 handles. Vermont and Utah were tied for the lowest rate, at 2.3%. The vast majority of states have unemployment rates between 2.5% and 4.5%, though among larger states, Virginia's 2.6% and Pennsylvania's 4.5% are noticeable on the low and high sides.

Puerto Rico's report was very discouraging. Losses in jobs bought the total below its year-earlier figure, and the unemployment rate shot up from 7.9% to 8.4%, despite a marked drop in the labor force (resident employment fell by more than 13,000).

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