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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets Modestly Firmer in May
by Charles Steindel  June 23, 2021

State job growth picked up somewhat in May following the lackluster April numbers. BLS reports that 14 states saw statistically significant increases in payroll employment. The gains were somewhat concentrated, in that California saw a 104,500 increase (which was also the largest in percentage terms), Florida was up 39,900, and Texas rose 34,400. On the flip side, Wyoming reported a sharp 1.4 percent drop (3,800 jobs). The sum of the April-May job changes across the states was only 335,000, more than 200,000 less than the aggregate national figure. Not-seasonally adjusted, though, the sum of growth across the states was modestly higher than the national figure, illustrating how erratic seasonal job moves at this time of year complicate analysis of these numbers (in both instances the not-seasonally adjusted increase in jobs was about 1 million).

Over the 12 months ending in May job growth was strongest in the Northeast, with 5 states in that region seeing gains of 10.9 percent or higher, and 6 more showing growth of 9 percent or higher. Elsewhere only Michigan, Nevada, and Hawaii saw increases of 9 percent or more. Job growth was under 6 percent in 7 states in the mid-section of the nation, stretching from Louisiana to North Dakota to New Mexico (DC was also in that camp). This distribution, to a large extent, likely reflects the varied pace of reopening last year, as well as the rebound in leisure and hospitality this year (as illustrated by the gains in Nevada and Hawaii).

In the household survey 21 states, and DC, saw statistically meaningful drops in their unemployment rate from April to May, while Ohio saw an increase (from 4.7 percent to 5.0 percent). Unemployment rate levels varied substantially across the nation, ranging from New Hampshire’s 2.5 percent to Hawaii’s 8.1 percent. Aside from Hawaii, unemployment rates were above 7 percent in the greater New York area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), DC, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Illinois. Aside from New Hampshire, rates were under 3 percent in Vermont, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Utah.

Puerto Rico reported a modest loss in payrolls, but the island’s unemployment rate fell from 8.4 to 8.2 percent, even though there was a marked increase in the labor force.

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