Economy Watch: States Enjoy Stable Unemployment Rates in October

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest data on employment could potentially contribute to the Fed's decision to raise interest rates or leave them as is next month.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics,  Unemployment rates by State, Seasonally Adjusted, October 2016
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Unemployment rates by State, Seasonally Adjusted,
October 2016

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the large majority of the states had stable, and relatively low, unemployment rates in October compared to the month before and a year earlier. This reasonably good data on employment will be (presumably) a bit more fodder for the Federal Open Market Committee next month when it considers whether to make borrowing more expensive.

Specifically, unemployment rates were significantly lower in October in seven states, higher in only two states, and stable in 41 states and the District of Columbia, the BLS reported. Seven states enjoyed notable jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, five suffered increases, and 38 states and D.C. saw no significant change. The national unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in October, little changed from that of last month and October 2015.

New Hampshire and South Dakota had the lowest unemployment rates in October, at 2.8 percent each. Alaska and New Mexico had the highest jobless rates, coming in at 6.8 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively. Among states that have the largest real estate markets—California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Florida and others—most were also stable in terms of unemployment rates.

California, however, experienced a 0.4 percentage point change since last year, dropping from a 5.9 percent unemployment rate in October 2015 to 5.5 percent a year later. New York, on the other hand, rose from 4.9 percent a year ago to 5.2 percent this October. Massachusetts’ unemployment rate went from 4.8 percent a year ago to a very robust 3.3 percent this October. By contrast, Pennsylvania saw a jump from 4.8 percent a year ago to 5.8 percent this October.