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Economy in Brief

U.S. State Unemployment Rates Range from 2.9% to 6.9%
by Tom Moeller  October 21, 2016

The decline in the overall U.S. unemployment rate has stabilized this year around 4.9% versus 5.3% during 2015. It was half its late-2009 peak, and varied greatly amongst individual states.

In today's state labor market report for September, unemployment in Alaska continued to top the chart at 6.9% versus 6.5% during all of last year. Louisiana also registered high unemployment at 6.4%, up slightly from the prior two years. Three other large states at the high end of the scale were Pennsylvania at 5.7%, up from 5.0% last year, California at 5.5%, down from 12.1% in 2010, and Illinois also at 5.5%, down from 10.3% in 2010.

At the bottom of the state unemployment tally were small states including South Dakota and New Hampshire, both at 2.9%. Another small state, Nebraska, was near the bottom of the range at 3.2%. There were larger states, however, which registered the lowest unemployment. Virginia was one with 4.0% unemployment with its close proximity to Washington, D.C. Minnesota at 4.0% was low along with Colorado at 3.6%.

Unemployment amongst other states similarly varied greatly. Unemployment in New Jersey registered a sharp rise in unemployment to 5.3% from its low of 4.3% in February, but that's still down from 5.6% in 2015. New York's unemployment rate similarly rose to 5.0% from 4.7%. The rise was led by New York City where the unemployment rate increased to 5.8% from 5.0% in three months. Texans also experienced higher unemployment as the rate rose to 4.8% from its low of 4.3% in March. Massachusetts saw a decline in joblessness to 3.6%, down from 8.8% in January 2010.

Washington state experienced relatively high unemployment with 5.6%, unless you lived around Seattle where the unemployment rate was 3.9%. A similar situation was seen in Illinois where the state's unemployment rate of 5.5% was above the 5.3% rate in Chicago. The opposite was the case in Ohio where state unemployment of 4.8% was below the 5.2% around Cleveland. Michigan's unemployment rate of 4.6% was below the 5.1% around Detroit, but that was down from 15.0% during all of 2009.

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

Consequences of Rising Income Inequality from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco can be found here.

Sep Aug 2015 2014 2013 Labor Force

Total U.S. Unemployment Rate (%)

5.0% 4.9% 5.3 6.2 7.4% 159.9 million

Ten States With Highest Jobless Rate

  Alaska 6.9 6.8 6.5 6.9 5.9 0.4
  Louisiana  6.4 6.3 6.2 6.3 6.5 2.1
  Mississippi 6.0 6.0 6.5 7.4 8.4 1.3
  West Virginia 5.8 5.7 6.7 6.6 6.7 0.8
  Pennsylvania 5.7 5.7 5.0 5.8 7.1 6.5
  Washington 5.6 5.7 5.7 6.1 6.9 3.7
  California 5.5 5.5 6.3 7.5 8.8 19.3
  Arizona  5.5 5.8 6.1 6.7 7.5 3.2
  Illinois 5.5 5.5 5.9 7.0 8.9 6.6
  Connecticut 5.4 5.6 5.6 6.6 7.7 1.9
Ten States With Lowest Jobless Rate      
  Iowa 4.2 4.2 3.6 4.1 4.7 1.7
  Maine 4.1 4.0 4.4 5.6 6.6 0.7
  Minnesota 4.0 4.0 3.6 4.1 4.8 3.0
  Arkansas 4.0 3.9 5.2 6.0 7.2 1.4
  Virginia 4.0 3.9 4.4 5.1 5.6 4.2
  Idaho 3.8 3.8 4.1 4.8 6.1 0.8
  Colorado 3.6 3.8 3.8 4.9 6.7 2.8
  Nebraska 3.2 3.2 2.9 3.2 3.7 1.0
  New Hampshire 2.9 3.0 3.4 4.3 5.1 0.7
  South Dakota 2.9 2.9 3.1 3.4 3.8 0.5
Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States      
  New Jersey 5.3 5.3 5.6 6.7 8.1 4.6
  Georgia 5.1 4.9 5.8 7.0 8.0 4.9
  New York 5.0 4.8 5.3 6.3 7.5 9.6
  Ohio 4.8 4.7 4.8 5.7 7.3 5.7
  Texas 4.8 4.7 4.5 5.0 6.1 13.0
  North Carolina 4.7 4.6 5.7 6.2 7.8 4.8
  Michigan 4.6 4.5 5.4 7.1 8.5 4.7
  Florida 4.7 4.7 5.3 6.1 7.0 9.8
  Wisconsin 4.1 4.2 4.6 5.4 6.6 3.1
  Massachusetts 3.6 3.9 4.9 5.7 6.6 3.6
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