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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in August
by Charles Steindel  September 18, 2020

State labor market data in August was broadly comparable to July, with widespread drops in unemployment and increases in jobs. 41 states report statistically significant declines in their unemployment rate, led by Massachusetts' 4.9 percentage-point drop. In contrast, though, Kentucky's rate soared 3.1 percentage points and Rhode Island was up 1.5 percentage points. Kentucky had reported oddly low rates of 4.4 percent in June and 4.5 percent rate in July; the August surge in the Blue Grass State reflected a very large increase in the workforce. Ten states (including Massachusetts, despite its large August drop) continue to report unemployment rates above 10 percent, led by Nevada's 13.2 percent, but 4 (South Dakota, Idaho, Utah, and Vermont) have rates under 5 percent.

40 states had statistically significant increases in payrolls in August, with New York's 153,300 increase the highest in the nation. Both New York and New Jersey report the highest percentage gain, 1.8 percent. All states (and DC) report job levels this August lower than last August; Idaho is the only locality where the drop was not statistically significant. Government employment grew noticeably from July to August in most states, surely largely reflecting Census hiring. Once again, gains in leisure and hospitality were widespread.

Although in August New York and New Jersey led the way in job growth, and Massachusetts in unemployment rate improvement, it remains the case that measured by unemployment rates or job loss over the last year the Northeast is in a weaker state than the rest of the nation, particularly compared to Rocky Mountain states such as Idaho and Utah.

Puerto Rico also saw a large increase in jobs in August—12,800, or 1.6 percent. As was the case on the mainland, government job numbers moved up; however, leisure and hospitality edged down.

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