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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in December
by Charles Steindel  January 26, 2021

State labor market data results in December were again mixed. The count of states with falling unemployment has been on the downtrend, with 19 seeing improvement from November to December, a noticeably smaller number than has recently been the case. New Jersey had the largest decline, with the unemployment rate in the Garden State falling from 10.2 percent to 7.6 percent, primarily reflecting a large decline in the state’s labor force. No state reports an unemployment rate above 10 percent—Hawaii’s 9.3 percent figure was the high. New Mexico’s 1.0 percentage point gain, from 7.2 percent to 8.2 percent, was the largest. On the plus side, Nebraska’s and South Dakota’s rate were 3.0 percent, and 5 other states were also below 4 percent. As was the case in November, unemployment rates were generally low in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions, while New York’s and California’s rates were above 8 percent.

15 states had statistically significant increases in payrolls in December. Texas had the largest gain in numbers—64,200—but Georgia’s 44,700 was more impressive in percentage terms (1.0 vs. .5). North Carolina’s performance was between Texas’s and Georgia’s (a 33,600--.8 percent—increase). Hawaii, where the job news has been quite bad, saw its job surf moving up, with a 2.0 percent rise. In general, though, job losses loomed larger. While there were only 11 states with significantly significant job losses, there were 4 with percentage drops larger than 1 percent, with Minnesota’s 1.8 percent loss and Michigan’s 1.6 percent (64,400—a bit larger in magnitude than Texas’s gain) the most striking.

Many states saw substantial job losses in the leisure and hospitality sector, obviously related to the upsurge in the pandemic. These losses were especially evident in California, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Oregon; New York is another state with notable losses in that area. Not surprising, given its strong overall gains, Hawaii bucked that trend and saw a solid rise in leisure and hospitality jobs (Georgia and Texas were among the other states with increases).

Puerto Rico had a poor month, with the island’s unemployment rate moving up from 8.5 to 9.1 percent, and 7.600 reduction (0.9 percent) drop in payrolls. Leisure and hospitality payrolls, though, were actually up fractionally.

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