Unemployment Rate Drops in 10 States During June

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As the national unemployment rate hit 4.4% in June, unchanged from the month before, the number dropped in 10 states, a sign that the jobs recovery is uneven.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Unemployment rates were lower in June in 10 states, higher in 2 states and stable in 38 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Twenty-seven states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier and 23 states and the District had little or no change. The national unemployment rate, 4.4 percent, was little changed from May but was 0.5 percentage point lower than in June 2016.

There was also a wide spread in the unemployment rate among states, both well above and well below the national 4.4% average:

Colorado and North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rates in June, 2.3 percent each. The rates in North Dakota (2.3 percent) and Tennessee (3.6 percent) set new series lows. (All state series begin in 1976.) Alaska had the highest jobless rate, 6.8 percent, followed by New Mexico, 6.4 percent. In total, 19 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 4.4 percent, 5 states and theDistrict of Columbia had higher rates, and 26 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.

The unemployment rate in troubled states topped 10% during the depth of the Great Recession. Even in economically “healthy” states, the figure rose well above 5%.

Among the arguments economists make about the jobs situation is that 5% should be considered “full employment.” Some portion of the population moves from job to job at any one time and may be temporarily out of work. People take breaks from jobs for other reasons. That means a few million people could be unemployed at one time or another but not, on the whole, for any long period.

In the lowest unemployment states, employers have to find it hard to find workers in many cases. In general, this should force wages higher. On the other side of that coin, unemployment rates of above 6% should make the search for workers easier.

While the national jobs situation has improved remarkably, in places like Alaska and New Mexico, there is a long way to go before the markets are healthy.