The Washington Post

Unemployment dips to post-recession lows in 41 states


(States with post-recession lows in red.)

CORRECTION: The data in this post has been updated to reflect updated historical Labor Department data. There are 41 states at post-recession lows.

Unemployment rates in 41 states are the lowest they’ve been since the recession ended, according to an analysis of Labor Department data. But beneath that headline statistic, the state of the state labor markets is far from recovered.

Michigan saw one of the largest month-over-month declines between December and January, with the unemployment rate dropping 0.5 percentage points to 7.8 percent. That means unemployment in January was the lowest its been since May 2008, better than all but two states. In Florida and South Carolina, the rate was down to 6.2 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively, the lowest those states have seen since that June. In Vermont, unemployment was down to 4 percent, lows the state hasn’t seen since late 2007. North Dakota is faring the best, with a 2.6 percent unemployment rate, something not seen there since mid-2001.

But those headline rates don’t reflect key problems with state labor markets. In the vast majority of states, long-term unemployment—a particularly intractable problem—is at or near record highs. In many states, the income gap between the poorest and richest has widened. And, as the Economic Policy Institute recently reported, low-wage workers in nearly every state have seen their wages drop (see chart below).


(Economic Policy Institute)
Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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