Economy Watch: Most State Unemployment Rates Hold Steady

Unemployment rates stayed the same in September for 42 states and D.C., which could be a sign of a steady recovery or an employment market stuck in neutral.
BLS unemployment 0916
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Region and State Employment and Unemployment, September 2016

Unemployment rates were significantly lower in September in seven states, higher in only one state, and stable in 42 states and the District of Columbia, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. Compared with last year, the pattern was similar: Six states had jobless rate decreases from a year ago, four states suffered increases and the vast majority—40 states and D.C.—saw no significant change.

This stability among the states mirrors the national rate. For more than a year now, it’s been hovering around 5 percent, which is where the rate happens to be now. That can be taken either as a sign of a reasonable recovery from the recession, or of an employment market stuck in neutral.

New Hampshire and South Dakota had the lowest jobless rates in September, at 2.9 percent each. A lot of jobs have left South Dakota in recent years, but so have a number of potential job holders. Alaska had the highest unemployment rate: 6.9 percent. The largest job gains for the month were in Texas (up 38,300), California (up 30,000) and Florida (up 23,000). In percentage terms, the largest increases were in Kentucky and Washington state, up 0.6 percent each.

Thirty-five states and D.C. enjoyed significant year-over-year increases in employment in September. The largest job gains for the year were in California (up 379,700), Florida (up 276,300) and Texas (up 206,800). The largest annual percentage gain was in Oregon, up 3.5 percent, followed by Florida, at 3.4 percent. Only Wyoming suffered a drop in employment for the year, with a loss of 9,200 jobs, or 3.2 percent.