Economy Watch: State Unemployment Rates Mostly Stable

Jobless rates bumped up in August for only six states, which is reasonably good news for most state economies and real estate markets.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor
Unemployment, though calculated nationally, tends to have more of an impact locally and at statewide levels. Thus it’s reasonably good news for local and state economies—and most local and state real estate markets—that state unemployment rates are generally holding steady in most places.

Unemployment rates were significantly higher in August compared with July in only six states, lower in three states, and stable in 41 states and the District of Columbia, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Tuesday. Ten states had notable jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, five states had increases, and 35 states and D.C. had no significant change.

South Dakota and New Hampshire had the lowest jobless rates in August, 2.9 percent and 3 percent, respectively. In the case of South Dakota, that probably means that even though the energy sector has contracted, people who can’t find work in it aren’t sticking around the state. Alaska had the highest unemployment rate in August: 6.8 percent.

Among states with large metro real estate markets, California still has a slightly elevated level of unemployment, coming in at 5.5 percent in August, as is Illinois’ rate. New York is at 4.8 percent, pretty close to the national average. Texas’ unemployment rate is 4.7 percent, and so is Florida’s.

BLS unemployment rate 0816
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment, August 2016