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In 16 states, unemployment is at its lowest in at least four years

Job seekers meet with recruiters at a job fair. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty.)
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Unemployment reached multi-year lows for about a third of states last month, but a full jobs recovery is still not here.

Sixteen states saw the jobless rate in October fall to its lowest level in more than four years. In all but two, October unemployment was at its lowest level since late 2008 or the early months of 2009. In Minnesota, unemployment hasn’t been this low since January 2008. And it’s been more than a decade since North Dakota saw an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent as it did in October. (The last time was August 2001.) In all, unemployment dropped from September to last month in 39 states. And only three states—Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio—saw nearly two-year highs.

But the situation isn’t as rosy as those statistics suggest. The jobs recovery still pales in comparison to the recoveries following the 1981, 1990 and 2001 recessions, according to data from Doug Hall, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank focused on the needs of low- and middle-income workers.

Unemployment had nearly or fully recovered this many months after the start of the three other recessions, as depicted in Hall’s chart below. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, however, it remains high relative to where it was at the start.

That subdued job recovery also means jobs growth is lagging behind population growth. Only one state has added jobs faster than it’s added people since the Great Recession began, according to Hall’s research. That state is North Dakota, home to a big oil boom. In 11 states, the deficit between job and population growth is greater than 10 percent. Nevada, home to a particularly bad housing bust, has the largest, at 18 percent. The map below shows each state’s job-to–population deficit.

The 16 states that saw unemployment reach its lowest point in 4.5 or more years are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina and Wisconsin.