Hawaii’s Unemployment Rate at 2.2%, Alaska’s at 7.2%

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Alaska, the 49th state to join the Union, on January 3, 1959, had the highest unemployment rate of any state in October at 7.2%. Hawaii, the 50th, which became a state on August 21st of that same year, had the lowest at 2.2%. The figures show how uneven the job recovery after the Great Recession has been.

The national jobless rate was 4.1% in October. Several states were at 3% or lower. Most of those have very small populations. The unemployment rate for the month in North Dakota was 2.5%, in Colorado 2.7%, Idaho 2.9%, Iowa 3.0%, Nebraska 3.0%, New Hampshire 2.7%, Tennessee 3.0% and Vermont 2.9%. For some reason, these pockets of low jobless rates are clustered in the northern tier of the states in the center of the country and in northern New England.

The states with jobless rates at or above 5% are the District of Columbia (not a state, but included in the Bureau of Labor Statistics data) at 6.6%, Kentucky at 5.0%, Nevada at 5.0%, New Mexico at 6.1%, Ohio at 5.1% and West Virginia at 5.1%. Demographers will be left with the task of interpreting why there is no geographic pattern among these.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics overall comments about state unemployment for October posted on November 17:

Unemployment rates were lower in October in 12 states, higher in 1 state, and stable in 37 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Twenty-three states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, 2 states and the District had increases, and 25 states had little or no change. The national unemployment rate edged down to 4.1 percent in October and was0.7 percentage point lower than a year earlier.

Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 9 states in October 2017, decreased in 3 states, and was essentially unchanged in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, 27 states added nonfarm payroll jobs and 23 states and the District were essentially unchanged.

Table A. States with unemployment rates significantly different
from that of the U.S., October 2017, seasonally adjusted
--------------------------------------------------------------
                State                |          Rate(p)
--------------------------------------------------------------
United States (1) ...................|           4.1
                                     |
Alaska ..............................|           7.2
California ..........................|           4.9
Colorado ............................|           2.7
Delaware ............................|           4.8
District of Columbia ................|           6.6
Hawaii ..............................|           2.2
Idaho ...............................|           2.9
Illinois ............................|           4.9
Iowa ................................|           3.0
Kentucky ............................|           5.0
                                     |
Louisiana ...........................|           4.8
Minnesota ...........................|           3.3
Mississippi .........................|           4.9
Nebraska ............................|           2.7
Nevada ..............................|           5.0
New Hampshire .......................|           2.7
New Jersey ..........................|           4.9
New Mexico ..........................|           6.1
New York ............................|           4.8
North Dakota ........................|           2.5
                                     |
Ohio ................................|           5.1
Pennsylvania ........................|           4.7
South Dakota ........................|           3.5
Tennessee ...........................|           3.0
Utah ................................|           3.3
Vermont .............................|           2.9
West Virginia .......................|           5.1
Wisconsin ...........................|           3.4
--------------------------------------------------------------
   (1) Data are not preliminary.
   (p) = preliminary.