Economy Watch: Most States See Annual Unemployment Drop; Hotels Gain Ground

Most states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier. Also, most hospitality markets have made a comeback, with hotel occupancy increasing by 1.9 percent in early August.

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia experienced unemployment rate increases in July compared with June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Monday. Eight states had decreases, and 14 states had no change. But since last year, the trend is still mostly positive: 36 states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, nine states suffered increases, and five states had no change.

Naturally, some states did better than others in July. The largest month-over-month increases in employment were in California (up 38,100 jobs), Georgia (up 30,900), and Florida (up 27,600). On the losing side of the tally, New Jersey shed 11,800 jobs during the month, while Nevada lost 10,200 and Maryland lost 9,200.

Nevada still has the highest unemployment rate among the states: in July, it was 9.5 percent. Illinois has the next highest rate, coming in at 9.2 percent. Energy-boom North Dakota continues to have the lowest jobless rate, which was 3 percent in July. Altogether, 17 states had jobless rates significantly lower than the current U.S. figure of 7.4 percent, while 11 states and D.C. had higher rates, and 22 states had rates not much different from that of the nation.

Hotels Gain Ground

Most U.S. hospitality markets have made a comeback. According to the latest weekly numbers from hotel data specialist STR, three key metrics for the business were up when compared with last year, with occupancies now roughly at levels not seen since before the recession.

For the week of August 4-10, with all figures compared with the same week last year, hotel occupancy rose 1.9 percent to 72.7 percent, average daily rate (ADR) increased 4.8 percent to $112.48, and revenue per available room (RevPAR) grew 6.8 percent to $81.74. Among the top hospitality markets, Orlando and St. Louis reported the largest occupancy increases for the week, while Chicago reported the largest occupancy decrease.

Five markets experienced ADR growth of more than 10 percent compared with last year: San Francisco, Oahu, Seattle, St. Louis, and Anaheim-Santa Ana, Calif. On the other hand, Phoenix, Arizona, and Washington, D.C., reported the only ADR decreases for the week. Six markets achieved RevPAR increases of more than 15 percent since last year: Seattle, St. Louis, Orlando, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Anaheim-Santa Ana. By contrast, Philadelphia posted the largest RevPAR decrease.

Wall Street had another mild down day on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 70.73 points, or 0.47 percent. The S&P 500 was off 0.59 percent and the Nasdaq was down 0.14 percent.