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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in January
by Charles Steindel  March 15, 2021

State labor market data in January tended to show declines in unemployment with fairly muted changes in payroll employment. 20 states report statistically significant declines in their unemployment rates. Michigan's remarkable 2.5 percentage point plunge, to 5.7 percent, led the way, with a big "but"—it was essentially the result of drop of more than 120,000 in the state's labor force. A similar story can be told about number 2 Kansas's 1.2 percentage point decline. Hawaii was the only state with an unemployment rate above 10 percent; two very large states were next on the list (California at 9.0 percent, and New York at 8.8). South Dakota and Utah, both at 3.1 percent, had the lowest unemployment rates. In general, unemployment was lowest in, essentially, states that were part of the Louisiana Purchase (with Louisiana itself an exception), as well as a few others (including Florida), and higher in the Northeast and far West.

20 states had statistically significant increases in payrolls in January. Minnesota easily led all the states, ranking first in both its percentage gain (1.9) and absolute increase 51,800. Only 2 states saw statistically significant declines, but one of them was California, with a striking 69,900 loss came on the heels of an even larger December decline (75,400). Minnesota's large increase reflects a reversal of a large December drop in leisure and hospitality. The Golden State's recent job losses have been centered in leisure and hospitality, quite likely related to intensified pandemic restrictions.

Puerto Rico had a good month, with the island's unemployment rate moving down markedly from 10.5 to 9.0 percent, and an 8,500 increase in payrolls.

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