The monthly Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary, released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed more signs of steady, albeit slow, labor market improvement. Reflecting national employment trends, states saw strong job growth in the second quarter, and unemployment rates remained the same or continued to tick down in half of the states.
In the second quarter, April 2014 to July 2014, 43 states and the District of Columbia added jobs, led by Utah (+1.4 percent), Delaware (+1.3 percent), and Michigan (+1.3 percent). The South experienced the largest regional growth (+0.6 percent). Seven states lost jobs during this time, with Alaska (-1.7 percent), Nebraska (-0.5 percent), and New Hampshire (-0.5 percent) seeing the largest declines.
Over the same period, unemployment rates fell in 21 states and the District of Columbia, with Illinois (-1.1 percentage points), Colorado (-0.7 percentage points), and Rhode Island (-0.6 percentage points) seeing the greatest improvement. Unfortunately, much of this was due to workers giving up the job search rather than finding employment, as the labor force shrank in 14 of the 22 states that saw lower unemployment rates in the second quarter. The unemployment rate rose in 21 states, led by Louisiana (+0.9 percentage points), Georgia (+0.9 percentage points), and Tennessee (+0.8 percentage points). However, the two states with the largest increases in unemployment also saw increases in job growth, which suggests some previously discouraged job seekers may have resumed their search. Eight states saw no change.
Though the labor market is improving across the country, job growth has yet to meaningfully accelerate for most states. And too many workers continue to be sidelined from the workforce for an exceptionally long period of time. In fact, in most states the share of the labor force that is long-term unemployed (unemployed for six month or more) is still as high, or higher, than it has ever been outside of the last six years.