Economy Watch: Statewide Unemployment, Travel

Forty-one states and the District of Columbia saw unemployment rate decreases in November compared with October. Travel on all American roads and streets was up by 2.6 percent compared to the same month last year.

Forty-one states and the District of Columbia saw unemployment rate decreases in November compared with October, three states suffered increases, and six states experienced no change, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. Compared with the same month last year, 43 states and DC enjoyed unemployment rate decreases, four states saw increases, and three states had no change. (The national jobless rate, 5.8 percent, was unchanged in November compared with October, but 1.2 percentage points lower than in November 2013.)

In November, 22 states had statistically significant month-over-month unemployment rate changes, all of which were declines, the BLS said. North Carolina had the largest decrease (down 0.5 percentage points), followed by Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, and Michigan (down 0.4 points each). The remaining 28 states and DC had jobless rates that were not measurably different from those of a month earlier, though some had changes that were at least as large numerically as the significant changes.

Mississippi suffered the highest unemployment rate among the states in November, coming in at 7.3 percent, though DC had a rate of 7.4 percent. North Dakota again enjoyed the lowest jobless rate, coming in at 2.7 percent (it’s a little soon to gauge the impact of tumbling oil prices on the employment picture in the Dakotas). All together, 20 states had unemployment rates significantly lower than the U.S. figure of 5.8 percent; eight states and DC had measurably higher rates; and 22 states had rates not appreciably different from that of the nation.

More Travel, Trucking in November 

The U.S. Department of Transportation reported on Friday that travel on all American roads and streets – an indirect indicator of economic activity – was up by 2.6 percent (6.6 billion vehicle miles) in October 2014 compared with the same month a year ago. Cumulative travel for 2014 thus far is up by 0.9 percent (23.2 billion vehicle miles), compared with last year.

Separately, the American Trucking Association said on Friday that its For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped 3.5 percent in November compared with October, following an increase of 0.5 percent during the previous month. In November, the index equaled 136.8 (2000 = 100), which was the highest level on record.

Next year might be even better for the transportation industry (and ordinary drivers), provided the drop in gas prices is sustained throughout 2015. For now, at least, prices keep dropping. As of Sunday, the U.S. average price for a gallon of regular gas was $2.409, compared with $2.559 a week earlier, and $2.839 a month ago.

Wall Street edged up again on Friday after its Thursday surge, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 26.65 points, or 0.15 percent. The S&P 500 was up 0.46 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.36 percent.