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Economy in Brief

State Labor Markets in December 2021
by Charles Steindel  January 26, 2022

As was the case in November, state payroll employment growth in December generally looked better than the national figure. The national gain expressed as the sum of the state changes was 464,500, compared to the initial national estimate of 199,000. Again, the discrepancy mostly reflected differences in seasonal adjustments. Not-seasonally adjusted, the sum of the state increases was about 100,000 higher than the national figure.

Seventeen states reported statistically significant increases in payrolls in December, with California, Texas, and New York well ahead of the pack in the absolute size of their increases (Minnesota, both Dakotas, and Nebraska had small declines, and Utah was unchanged). Iowa and West Virginia report .8 percent gains. Over the last 12 months, western states have generally clocked job gains above 6 percent, with states in the Plains and Mississippi Valley showing slower growth. Massachusetts had the largest increase—6.6 percent--while Wyoming and South Dakota lost jobs over the course of 2021.

A whopping 42 states (including DC) had statistically significant drops in their unemployment rates from November to December. Of the others, Alabama was the only one whose headline rate was unchanged (it actually edged up from 3.07 to 3.14 percent). Massachusetts had a stunning 1.3 percentage point decline (from 5.2 percent to 3.9 percent). No state had a statistically significant Unemployment was under 2 percent in Nebraska and Utah. Four states (California, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York) still report unemployment rates above 6 percent, but in all the December rate was substantively below the November figure.

Labor market numbers in Puerto Rico were mixed in December. The island's unemployment rate dropping to a record low 7.5 percent, even as the labor force grew more than 1 percent. The job count, though, edged down.

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