State-level employment and unemployment data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics continue to show improving labor market conditions throughout the United States. From November 2011 to February 2012, unemployment rates in 46 states and the District of Columbia declined. Unemployment increased in only two states: New York (+0.3 percentage points) and New Mexico (+0.1 percentage points). However, these increases reflect growth in the labor market, as both states have had positive employment growth over the same period. Maine’s and South Dakota’s unemployment rates stayed unchanged.
Over the past year, unemployment rates have decreased at least 1 percentage point in 17 states. Unemployment has declined by 1.5 percentage points or more in five of those states: Alabama, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee and Utah. During this period, there was positive job growth in all but seven states: Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Wisconsin experienced the largest employment loss of 16,900 jobs – larger than the other six states’ job losses combined.
While the latest figures are an encouraging sign that a broader economic recovery is underway, unemployment still remains high in many parts of the country. Three states (California, Nevada, and Rhode Island) continue to have unemployment rates above 10.0 percent, while 10 states plus the District of Columbia have rates of 9.0 percent or more.
State-level economic conditions are always vulnerable to policy choices in Washington, DC. The Ryan budget proposal and the Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget for All offer starkly different paths forward for state economies. The former would shift health care costs onto states, reduce federal support of state unemployment insurance and cut funding for critical investments in state infrastructure. The latter offers a plan that would protect the middle class, provide sound economic stewardship and maintain the federal support needed for all states to experience a full recovery.