Monthly state employment data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show “middling” economic progress in every region of the country. Between August 2012 to November 2012, 12 states experienced declines in overall employment, compared with 10 in last month’s report, but down from 22 in the August report. The two states with the greatest job loss—Alaska (down 0.7 percent) and Wyoming (down 0.8 percent)—are both resource-rich states that fared relatively well during the recession. All regions of the country saw modest employment growth, led by the South and West, each with 0.6 percent job growth over the preceding three months (and 1.5 percent and 1.9 percent growth, respectively, over the preceding year).
Now just two states—Nevada and Rhode Island—continue to have unemployment rates greater than 10.0 percent, while California, New Jersey, and North Carolina have rates exceeding 9.0 percent.
Every state remains vulnerable to setbacks resulting from poor policy choices at both the state and national levels, and many governors’ budget proposals to address state budget shortfalls threaten important programs and services. Shortsighted cuts to the public-sector workforce also undermine the current economic recovery. In addition, Congress and the president must make critical decisions to determine the fate of workers receiving extended unemployment benefits and the strength of Social Security, as the wrong policies would threaten the well-being of workers and the prospects for continued economic recovery in every state.