Economic Indicators | Jobs and Unemployment

Four years into the recovery, high unemployment haunts much of the country

The June 2013 Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) report released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics marks four years since the official start of the recovery. However, most states still have yet to reclaim their pre-recession employment levels, and high unemployment continues to haunt much of the country.

From March 2013 to June 2013, 40 states saw gains in employment, with California (+56,800), Texas (+55,000), and Missouri (+28,200) experiencing the largest net increases in jobs. Missouri (+1.1 percent), Mississippi (+1.0 percent), and Idaho (+0.9 percent) recorded the largest percentage gains.

During the same period of March to June, 8 states and the District of Columbia lost jobs. Vermont and North Carolina essentially had no change in employment. Overall, 34 states still have employment levels below their pre-recession peaks, and even those that have reached pre-recession levels still lag in the job growth needed to keep up with population growth since the recession began.

From March 2013 to June 2013, unemployment declined in 30 states and the District of Columbia, with California (-0.9 percentage points), West Virginia (-0.9 percentage points), New York (-0.7 percentage points), and Alabama (-0.7 percentage points) seeing the largest declines. However, West Virginia’s drop in unemployment is driven entirely by people giving up the job search, as its labor force shrunk and total employment level declined over the same period. Unemployment rose significantly in New England and the West South Central regions, with Louisiana (+0.8 percentage points) and Massachusetts (+0.6 percentage points) seeing the largest increases. Tennessee’s unemployment rate also rose substantially, by 0.7 percentage points.

Unchanged from last month, there are still three states—Nevada, Illinois, and Mississippi—with unemployment rates of at least 9.0 percent, and seventeen states have unemployment rates above the national average of 7.6 percent. In contrast, only eight states have unemployment rates below the pre-recession national average of 5.0 percent.

As corporate profits soar and the stock market reaches record highs, some may be tempted to think that all is well with the U.S. economy. But the reality is that millions of Americans are still without work. Four years into the recovery, we are still only one fifth of the way out the jobs hole left by the Great Recession, and there are still more than three job-seekers for every job opening. Policymakers need to focus on enabling workers to find good jobs, and not forget (or carelessly punish) those still struggling to land a steady paycheck.

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