State unemployment rates show uneven recovery

August 19, 2013
Applicants standing in a line that stretched for blocks reach for registration forms to attend a job and career fair in New York recently. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) Applicants standing in a line that stretched for blocks reach for registration forms to attend a job and career fair in New York recently. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The national unemployment rate ticked down to 7.4 percent in July, but more than half the states saw an increase in the percentage of out-of-work job seekers over the last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — and 16 states and the District of Columbia still have unemployment rates greater than 8 percent.

In total, 28 states and the District saw their unemployment rates rise over the last month, though the longer-term picture is rosier. Since July 2012, the unemployment rate has fallen in 36 states and the District.

The monthly report released this morning shows states that were hit the hardest during the Great Recession have rebounded the fastest, though they are nowhere near pre-recession levels. Nevada’s unemployment rate, which peaked at 15.3 percent in January 2010, fell to 9.5 percent in July. Michigan’s unemployment rate topped out at 14.6 percent in July 2009; last month, that number hit 8.8 percent.

Nevada, at 9.5 percent unemployment, and Illinois, at 9.2 percent, are the last two states with jobless rates higher than 9 percent. North Dakota, riding an energy boom fueled by developments in the Bakken oil fields, maintains a 3 percent jobless rate, the lowest in the nation. Seven other states — Hawaii (4.5 percent), Iowa (4.8 percent), Nebraska (4.2 percent), South Dakota (3.9 percent), Utah (4.6 percent), Vermont (4.6 percent) and Wyoming (4.6 percent) maintain rates below 5 percent.

California, where the unemployment rate has fallen 1.9 percentage points, has seen the steepest drop over the past year. Florida, Nevada and Rhode Island also registered significant drops. California added 38,100 jobs in just the last month, BLS reported, while Georgia tacked on 30,900 new jobs. Arizona, Connecticut and Utah added more than 10,000 jobs in July, while Florida and Michigan added more than 20,000 each. Utah, Arizona and Georgia — three of the fastest-growing states in the nation — saw the highest percentage of job gains over the last year.

But 17 states and Washington, D.C., saw lower jobs numbers over the last month. New Jersey and Nevada each shed more than 10,000 jobs. Over the last year, only Alaska has seen a net loss in nonfarm employment numbers.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.
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