This morning’s Regional and State Employment and Unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was generally positive, showing moderate employment growth and small reductions in unemployment rates for most states. Still, mixed messages in this month’s national jobs report should caution anyone from thinking the labor market is definitively returning to health.
From January 2014 to April 2014, forty-two states plus the District of Columbia added jobs, with North Dakota (+2.1 percent), New Hampshire (+1.3 percent), Utah (+1.3 percent), and Florida (+1.2 percent) showing the strongest percentage growth. Over the same period, six states lost jobs: Arizona (-0.1 percent), Arkansas (-0.2 percent), Minnesota (-0.2 percent), New Mexico (-0.4 percent), Vermont (-0.1 percent), and Wyoming (-0.1 percent). Illinois and New Jersey had essentially no change in employment levels.
Unemployment rates fell in 36 states from January to April, with the largest declines occurring in Ohio (-1.2 percentage points), South Carolina (-1.1 percentage points), and Rhode Island (-0.9 percentage points.) Unemployment increased substantially in Alabama (+0.8 percentage points) and Missouri (+0.6 percentage points), with smaller increases in Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. There are 19 states with unemployment rates above the national average of 6.3 percent, and two states—Nevada and Rhode Island—with unemployment still above 8 percent.
President Obama’s observance of Infrastructure Week is a timely reminder of one excellent way Congress could accelerate the state jobs recovery. America’s infrastructure is in desperate need of an upgrade. Boosting federal investment in infrastructure would spur the creation of typically well-paid jobs across the nation—putting people back to work while laying the foundation for a more productive economy.