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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets Cool Off in August
by Charles Steindel  September 17, 2021

Mirroring the national numbers, payroll growth across the states showed less improvement in August than in recent months. Only 11 states saw statistically significant increases in jobs; California picked up 104,300, and Kentucky had an impressive 1.1 percent gain (20,800 jobs). Three states saw statistically significant declines, with North Carolina losing 13,200 jobs and Hawaii down 1.0 percent (5,700). It should be noted that Hawaii’s drop was not in leisure and hospitality, where jobs were flat—Hawaii saw a sharp pullback in government jobs after an odd large rise in July. A few states, though did see fairly strong cuts in leisure and hospitality, and most did experience considerably smaller gains in this sector after months of sharp increases. Kentucky—as well as New Jersey—benefitted by an odd surge in government employment, which may have been in part an artifact of the specific timing of school-year hiring.

Over the last 12 months the Northeast and Southwest have been the regions with the largest job gains. The three strongest states have been Hawaii, Nevada, and Vermont, but all three had gains under 10 percent. Slower growth has been most evident in the center of the nation, with Kansas’s 1.7 percent the lowest.

15 states, as well as DC, had statistically significant declines in their unemployment rates in August; Arizona and New Mexico both saw .4 percentage point declines. As was the case in July, unemployment rates were highest in the New York City region and parts of the West, as well as Illinois, with Nevada’s unchanged 7.7 percent continuing to be the nation’s high. Once again, the upper Midwest and Plains, parts of the Rocky Mountain region, and portions of the Southeast and New England report the lowest unemployment rates, led by Nebraska’s 2.2 percent.

Puerto Rico saw its unemployment rate rise from 8.2 percent in July to 8.4 percent in August. Nonfarm payrolls on the island were virtually unchanged.

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