Economy Watch: State Unemployment Levels, Household Net Worth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 15 states saw unemployment decrease in August. Also, according to a new report by the Federal Reserve, the net worth of U.S. households has increased to a new high.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that 24 states and the District of Columbia suffered unemployment rate increases in August compared with July, while 15 states had decreases, and 11 experienced no change. Compared with August 2013, on the other hand, 45 states and D.C. enjoyed unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, while only three states had increases and two states saw no change. The national jobless rate in August 6.1 percent, was 1.1 percentage points lower than a year earlier.

In August, eight states enjoyed significant month-the-month increases in employment while three states and D.C. had significant decreases. The largest monthly job gains were in California (and addition of 44,200 jobs), Florida (up 22,700) and Georgia (up 15,800). The significant job decreases were in New Hampshire (a loss of 4,800 jobs), Mississippi (down 4,600) and D.C. and Idaho (down 4,200 each).

Despite its job growth, Georgia had unwanted distinction of the highest unemployment rate among the states in August, coming in at 8.1 percent. Energy-booming North Dakota again had the lowest jobless rate, at 2.8 percent. All together, 17 states had unemployment rates significantly lower than the U.S. figure of 6.1 percent, eight states and D.C. had measurably higher rates, while 25 states had rates that were not much different from the national one.

Household worth rides to new high on equity, real estate increases

The impact of rising equities and real estate value is apparent in the latest Flow of Funds report by the Federal Reserve, which the central bank released on Friday. According to the report, the net worth of U.S. households and nonprofits rose $1.4 trillion during the second quarter of 2014 to $81.5 trillion. The value of directly and indirectly held corporate equities increased $1 trillion and the value of real estate expanded $230 billion.

The report also noted that total debt outstanding was $40.5 trillion at the end of the second quarter, of which household debt totaled $13.3 trillion, business debt was $11.7 trillion, and total government debt came in at $15.6 trillion. All together, debt grew at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent in 2Q 2014.

Household debt increased at nearly that rate for the second quarter, up an annualized 3.6 percent. Originations of residential mortgages continued to be relatively weak, the Fed said, while consumer credit grew at a solid pace. State and local government debt rose an annualized 1.2 percent during the second quarter, after decreasing 1.3 percent during the first; and federal government debt rose at an annualized 2.5 percent during Q2 2014, the lowest growth rate in years.

Wall Street had a mixed day on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average eking out a 13.75-point gain, or 0.08 percent. The S&P 500 lost 0.05 percent and the Nasdaq was down 0.3 percent.