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Economy in Brief

U.S. State Unemployment Rates Continue Downward
by Tom Moeller  January 27, 2016

The overall U.S. unemployment rate held steady during December at 5.0% for the third straight month, half its late-2009 peak. For all of last year, the 5.3% jobless rate was down roughly two percentage points from 2014. Falling jobless rates occurred throughout the country, but there was great variation amongst individual states. Alaska's jobless rate held high at 6.5%, down moderately from the 8.0% peak, but California's elevated 5.8% jobless rate was half the 12.2% peak averaged during 2010. Unemployment in Illinois of 5.9% also was comparatively high, but down from the peak of 11.2%. The jobless rate in Texas increased to 4.7% from its 4.1% low, but remained down versus the 2009 high of 8.4%. In Tennessee, last month's 5.6% rate compared to the 2009 high of 11.1%. New York's unemployment rate of 4.8% compared to the 2009 peak of 8.9%.

Amongst mid-sized states, Michigan showed perhaps the greatest degree of reduced joblessness in the country. The 5.1% rate was down from 6.4% at the end of last year, and was roughly one-third of its peak in 2009. New Jersey's 5.1% rate of joblessness compared to 9.8% at the 2009 peak and Virginia at 4.2% was below the 7.4% peak. Amongst smaller states, Vermont's decline in the unemployment rate stalled this year at 3.6% but compared to a high of 7.0%, while Connecticut saw its rate fall to 5.2% from 9.1% at its peak. Nebraska's rate fell to 2.9% from the 4.8% peak. North Dakota's rate at 2.7% remained near last year's rate but still is lower than the 2009 high of 4.3%.

The unemployment rate figures in individual metropolitan areas continued, in most circumstances, to differ widely from the state numbers. Florida's 5.0% unemployment rate was below the 6.1% in the Miami metro area, although Miami's rate was down from 12.0% reached in 2009. Michigan's 5.1% jobless rate also was under the 6.2% jobless rate around Detroit. In 2009, it reached 16.3%. New York state's 4.8% unemployment rate was slightly below the 5.0% rate in New York City, while California's 5.8% rate roughly equaled the 5.9% around Los Angeles. Also close to one another were the Illinois unemployment rate of 5.9% and the 5.8% rate around Chicago, both of which have risen lately. Working the other way were Washington state's 5.5% jobless rate which exceeded Seattle's 4.6%, which also has moved up. Ohio's 4.7% rate was above Cleveland's 4.4%.

State unemployment figures are available in Haver's EMPLR database.

Dec Nov 2015 2014 2013 Labor Force

Total U.S. Unemployment Rate

5.0% 5.0% 5.3 6.2 7.4% 157.1 million

Ten States With Highest Jobless Rate

  Alaska 6.5 6.4 6.5 6.8 6.9 0.4
  Nevada 6.4 6.5 6.8 7.7 9.4 1.4
  Mississippi 6.4 6.0 6.5 7.6 8.4 1.3
  Louisiana 6.1 6.3 6.4 6.3 6.5 2.2
  Illinois 5.9 5.7 5.8 7.0 8.8 6.5
  California 5.8 5.7 6.2 7.5 8.8 19.0
  North Carolina 5.6 5.7 5.6 6.1 7.8 4.8
  Tennessee 5.6 5.5 5.9 6.6 7.6 3.0
  Georgia 5.5 5.6 6.0 7.1 8.0 4.7
  New Jersey 5.1 5.4 6.0 6.6 8.0 4.5
Ten States With Lowest Jobless Rate      
  Wyoming 4.3 4.1 4.1 4.3 4.7 0.3 million
  Virginia 4.2 4.1 4.6 5.1 5.5 4.2
  Vermont 3.6 3.7 3.7 4.1 4.4 0.3
  Minnesota 3.5 3.6 3.8 4.0 4.8 3.0
  Utah 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.7 4.4 1.5
  Iowa 3.4 3.4 3.8 4.3 4.7 1.7
  Hawaii 3.2 3.3 3.7 4.4 4.8 0.7
  New Hampshire 3.1 3.2 3.6 4.3 5.1 0.7
  Nebraska 2.9 2.9 2.7 3.3 3.7 1.0
  North Dakota 2.7 2.7 2.9 2.7 2.9 0.4
Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States      
  Louisiana 6.1 6.3 6.4 6.3 6.5 2.2 million
  Arizona 5.8 6.0 6.1 6.8 7.5 3.0
  Washington 5.5 5.3 5.5 6.3 6.9 3.5
  Connecticut 5.2 5.1 5.7 6.6 7.6 1.9
  Michigan 5.1 5.1 5.4 7.1 8.5 4.7
  Florida 5.0 5.1 5.5 6.1 7.0 9.6
  New York 4.8 4.8 5.4 6.2 7.5 9.6
  Massachusetts 4.7 4.7 4.7 5.7 6.6 3.6
  Texas 4.7 4.6 4.3 5.0 6.0 13.0
  Ohio 4.7 4.5 4.9 5.6 7.3 5.7
  Wisconsin 4.3 4.2 4.5 5.5 6.6 3.1
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