Economic Indicators | Jobs and Unemployment

Five Years into Recovery, State Jobs Picture Improves Across the Country, Though Many States still Have a Long Way to Go

The Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary, released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed the same general improvement in state labor market conditions that we’ve seen in most states over the past year. While this is good news and echoes this month’s strong national jobs report, there are still reasons for concern, as the labor force shrank in many states, and the majority of states have still not reached their pre-recession employment levels.

In the three month period from March 2014 to June 2014, 41 states (plus the District of Columbia) saw job growth, with the largest percentage gains occurring in Delaware (+1.3 percent), Texas (+1.2 percent), and the District of Columbia (+1.2 percent). Nine states lost jobs, with the largest percentage declines occurring in Vermont (-0.9 percent), Wyoming (-0.9 percent), and Alaska (-0.8 percent). Importantly, all of the four major regions and nine Census divisions of the country experienced strong job growth over this period, with the oil and gas boom fueling the largest growth (+1.0 percent) in the West South Central division that contains Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

Over the same timeframe, the unemployment rate fell in 34 states (plus the District of Columbia). The largest decreases occurred in Illinois (-1.3 percent), Massachusetts (-0.8 percent), Nevada (-0.8 percent), and Rhode Island (-0.8 percent). While these declines are generally good news, the labor force shrank in three of these top four states (Illinois, Massachusetts, and Nevada), and in 21 states overall, suggesting that not all of the improvement in state unemployment rates was due to job seekers finding jobs. The unemployment rate increased in 12 states, led by Louisiana (+0.5 percent), Georgia (+0.4 percent), and Virginia (+0.4 percent). Four states saw no change.

Even with this improving picture across the country, many states still have a long way to go. As of June, 31 states have yet to recoup the jobs they lost in the Great Recession. Moreover, there are still too many workers who have been sidelined from the workforce for an exceptionally long period of time. As EPI’s new long-term unemployment data tool shows, in most states the share of the labor force that is long-term unemployed (unemployed for six month or more) is still as high, or higher, than it has ever been.

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