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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in May
by Charles Steindel  June 19, 2020

May's improvement in the labor market varied across the nation. While 38 states (including D.C.) experienced statistically significant declines in their unemployment rates (led by an astonishing 5.7 percentage point plunge in Mississippi) a number saw increases: Minnesota's was up 1.2 percentage points. Nevada, Hawaii, and Michigan reported unemployment rates above 20 percent. Nebraska's 5.2 percent rate was far and away the lowest, and obviously the only one not indicative of a deep recession. Interestingly, Nebraska's low rate (which was 3.5 percentage points under April's) is not a reflection of a sharp drop in the state's labor force. Nebraska's labor force was essentially unchanged in May from April.

Growth in payroll employment was also sharply different by state. Vermont was up 6.4 percent, and Michigan rose 5.2 percent. There doesn't seem to be an especially close connection between job gains and the pace of reopening. Texas was up 2.0 percent, which for May was a middle-of-the-road increase. Similarly, Florida was up 2.3 percent and Georgia 1.9 percent. Some more buttoned-down states did have more modest increases: .9 percent in California and 1.2 percent in New York. However, New Jersey's gain was 2.5 percent (this reflected very strong gains in leisure and hospitality after a complete collapse in April. The May gain, though, was odd because all restaurant table service—outdoor as well as in—remained banned the entire month). Sharp declines in government employment have been reported in the national data the last two months and May saw government jobs fall in every state (DC was down 100).

Putting the May increase in context of the recent declines, all states (plus DC) still show quite large drops in payrolls since February. The smallest has been Utah's 6.6 percent, while at the other end is Hawaii's 20.6 percent.

Like the mainland regions, Puerto Rico saw a rebound in jobs in May. For a third straight month BLS was unable to compile household sector numbers for the island.

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