State level data released today by the BLS appears at first glance to confirm that most states are on a path to economic recovery. Over the past three months (since September 2011), 44 states have experienced reduced unemployment rates, and only four states (Hawaii, Indiana, Oklahoma and Rhode Island) have experienced an increase in their unemployment rates (three states have unchanged unemployment rates over this timeframe). Seven states – Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah – all stand out as states with an unemployment rate reduction of one percentage point or more; however, in each of those seven states, a decrease in the size of the labor force is largely responsible for the decreased unemployment rates. In two of those states – Minnesota and Ohio – the labor force has shrunk so much (-17,000 in Minnesota and -53,000 in Ohio) that the unemployment rate has gone down by over one percentage point despite decreased employment since September 2011.
This month’s data show five states and the District of Columbia hampered by unemployment rates at or above 10.0 percent (let by Nevada at 12.6 percent, California at 11.1 percent, and Rhode Island at 10.8 percent) , while 14 states plus the District of Columbia have unemployment rates of 9.0 percent or higher.
The Midwest continues to experience significant job loss, with a decline of over 13,000 jobs since September (led by declines of 13,500 in Minnesota and 17,700 in Wisconsin).
Members of Congress will gather to hear the President’s State of the Union address tonight. There is a great deal that they could do to spur economic growth in every state. Congress must work with the President to invest in infrastructure and revitalize manufacturing, two keys to economic prosperity in many states.