Commentary | Jobs and Unemployment

Georgia and Alabama join states with unemployment above 10%

In May, some 13 states — along with the District of Columbia — had double-digit unemployment, but new June data show that now there are 15. Michigan remains by far the state hardest hit by the recession. Its unemployment rose to 15.2% in June from 14.1% in May. Rhode Island was second, with unemployment of 12.4% up from 12.1% in May, while Oregon showed the third-worst unemployment rate in the United States, although its June jobless rate of 12.2% was actually a small improvement over May levels of 12.4%.

A new EPI analysis ranks the states by overall unemployment as well as the change seen since the start of the recession in December 2007. That change is measured both in terms of percentage-point change and the percentage of total jobs lost since the start of the recession. The analysis highlights how a number of states with comparatively low unemployment have nonetheless seen a severe erosion of jobs since the recession’s start.

Arizona’s June unemployment rate of 8.7%, for example, was below the national level of 9.5%. Nevertheless, Arizona ranks second (after Michigan) in terms of states with the highest percentage of job loss — 9.0% — since the start of the recession. Idaho is in a similar position: It had a comparatively low unemployment level of 8.4% in June, but has seen one of the highest percentages of job loss — 6.0% — over the course of the recession.

Looking at the rate at which unemployment has changed over the course of the recession offers another important way of measuring the impact of the economic downturn. While some states were suffering high unemployment at the start of the recession, others started out strong and saw a dramatic deterioration.
Four states stand out for ranking high both in their high unemployment and the large rate of change they have seen. Michigan, Oregon, Nevada, and California all suffer from double-digit unemployment and have all seen severe erosion in jobs since late 2007.

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