The monthly Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary, released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed some signs of continued labor market improvement—but also evidence of a labor market that has been in poor health for far too long. Even as unemployment rates slowly ticked down in most states, too many years of dismal job growth have led to millions of missing workers giving up the job search.
Over the period from February 2014 to May 2014, 43 states and the District of Columbia added jobs. The South (+0.7 percent) experienced the largest regional growth, while West Virginia (+2.2 percent), Alaska (+1.2 percent), and Utah (+1.2 percent) had the largest state increases. Seven states lost jobs during this time, with Illinois (-0.3 percent), Nebraska (-0.2 percent), and South Dakota (-0.2 percent) seeing the largest declines.
From February 2014 to May 2014, unemployment rates fell in 34 states, with Illinois (-1.2 percent), Ohio (-1.0 percent), and Rhode Island (-0.8 percent) seeing the greatest improvement. Unfortunately, some of these declines were due to workers giving up the job search rather than finding employment, as the labor force shrank in both Illinois and Ohio. As previously noted, Illinois actually had the largest loss of jobs over this period.
The unemployment rate was unchanged in 6 states, and rose in 10 states plus the District of Columbia. The largest increases occurred in Alabama (+0.4 percent), Louisiana (+0.4 percent), and West Virginia (+0.4 percent). Once again, seemingly conflicting indicators, this time in West Virginia—where job growth was accompanied by an increase in unemployment—are another sign of a labor market that has been in distress for too long. At least in this case, the data suggest some previously discouraged job seekers may have resumed their search.