Unemployment has reached multi-year lows in 27 states, a bit of positive news for state labor markets that are still struggling through a mild recovery.
In just over a third of states, there are more jobs now than there were when the recession began, according to an analysis of new Labor Department data by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank focused on the needs of low- and middle-income workers. There may be more jobs in many states since the recession, but there are also more people.
In only one state, oil-rich North Dakota, has the growth in jobs outpaced the growth in the working-age population, according to the EPI analysis. Forty nine states have added more adults in their working prime than jobs for them to fill. And the share of the working-age population that has jobs has declined in every state since 2007, though the fall has only been statistically meaningful for 35 of them, according to a Pew analysis.
Still, states are making incremental improvements. Not a single one saw unemployment rise in November, according to the Labor Department. (Rates held steady in five states and fell in 45.) Idaho, North Carolina and New Jersey saw the biggest monthly declines, shedding 0.6 percentage points each from their unemployment rates. Unemployment in Idaho is now 6.1 percent, while it’s 7.4 percent in North Carolina and 7.8 percent in New Jersey. Unemployment was highest in Nevada and Rhode Island, where it was 9 percent, and lowest in North Dakota, where it is 2.6 percent.
But many states will have to add jobs much faster if they hope to close the wide gap between population growth and jobs growth. In 37 states, the share of jobs needed to return the local economy to pre-recession employment rates is at or above 5 percent, according to the analysis provided by Doug Hall, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network at EPI.