The States That Recovered Most (and Least) from the Recession

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11. Illinois
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.6 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 11.4%
> Current unemployment: 8.8% (9th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.3% (20th highest)

In October, Illinois had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 8.8%. While this was very high, the state had a double-digit rate just 12 months before. In that time, the state added more than 120,000 new jobs. Among the sectors with the most growth between October 2011 and October 2012 was manufacturing where the number of jobs rose 3.6%. As of October, the sector employed nearly 600,000 workers in the state. In the coming months, several thousand jobs in Illinois are at risk due to the potential closing of the Mississippi River to navigation, specifically between St. Louis, Mo. and Cairo, Ill., because of low water levels caused by drought in the Midwest.

12. Minnesota
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.5 percentage points (tied-12th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.3%
> Current unemployment: 5.8% (13th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.2% (23rd highest)

Minnesota entered the recession with the 18th-highest unemployment rate in the country. As of last month, it had the 13th-lowest rate in the country. The state’s unemployment rate is now just one percentage point higher than it was before the downturn, making it one of just four states to be within one percentage point of their pre-recession rates. Of the major industries, only the mining and logging industry has lost jobs since 2009. Since mid-2007, Minnesota’s housing market lost 28% of its value, a bigger decline than all but a handful of states. Most of that decline, however, was during the first years of the recession. Since 2009, home values are up by 2.6%, and since 2011, they are up nearly 5%.

Also Read: The States Doling Out the Best (and Worst) Benefits

13. Alabama
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.5 percentage points (tied-12th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 10.6%
> Current unemployment: 8.1% (tied-18th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: -0.8% (3rd lowest)

During the recession, Alabama’s unemployment rate rose from 3.7% in November 2007 to a high of 10.6% in the fall of 2009. At 6.9 percentage points, this was a larger increase than nearly every other state in the nation. In recent years, the state’s job market has improved. The unemployment rate in Alabama has fallen by 2.5 percentage points from the peak. Still, some remain in jeopardy. Governor Robert Bentley has warned Alabama will lose 24,000 jobs if the federal government doesn’t reach a fiscal cliff deal. Pay also did not increase much over the nearly five-year period, with average weekly earnings just 2.2% higher in October 2012 than in November 2007.

14. Nevada
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.5 percentage points (tied-12th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 14.0%
> Current unemployment: 11.5% (the highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.2% (21st highest)

Nevada’s unemployment rate rose from 5.1% in November 2007 to 14% in October 2010.Meanwhile, home prices plummeted 56.8% from the second quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2012. Driven by the collapse in the housing market, Nevada’s real GDP contracted 3.2% in 2008 and another 7.6% in 2009 — both among the worst figures in the U.S. In some regards, the state’s economy has improved. Its GDP grew by 1.2% last year — better than more than half of all states, although slightly worse than the U.S. overall. However, as of October, the state’s unemployment rate remained well above all other states at 11.5%. Fiserv projects home values will keep declining through the second quarter of 2013.

15. California
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.3 percentage points (tied-15th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 12.4%
> Current unemployment: 10.1% (3rd highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 2.0% (10th highest)

In October, California was one of just three states with an unemployment rate above 10%. This rate was 4.4 percentage points higher than California’s unemployment rate in November 2007 of 5.7%, which was already one of the nation’s highest that month.One of the primary causes of the California’s economic decline was the state’s housing crisis. Between mid-2007 and mid-2012 home prices fell 41%, more than all but three other states.  Although the unemployment rate has steadily declined since reaching its peak of 12.4% in October 2010, the state has yet to replace nearly half a million jobs that were lost between November 2007 and October 2012. A full recovery may still be years away. According to the economic outlook attached to the Governor’s revised budget issued in May, “California is forecast to recover the nonfarm jobs lost during the Great Recession in the fourth quarter of 2015.”

16. Wyoming
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.3 percentage points (tied-15th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.5%
> Current unemployment: 5.2% (tied-5th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: -1.2% (the lowest)

During the recession, Wyoming thrived. The state’s real GDP rose 5.2% in 2008 and another 2.3% in 2009, ranking second-highest in both years. But as the nation’s unemployment rate rose from November 2007 through the end of 2009, Wyoming lost jobs as well. By November 2009, roughly 7,000 people in the nation’s least-populated state had lost their jobs and unemployment peaked at 7.5%. The state has since recovered the jobs it lost, but its economy has stopped growing. In both 2010 and 2011 the economy contracted. GDP fell by 1.2% in 2011 — worse than any other state.

17. Kentucky
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.3 percentage points (tied-15th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 10.7%
> Current unemployment: 8.4% (15th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.6% (17th lowest)

Kentucky already had one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates in November 2007 at 5.6%. During the recession, the state’s unemployment rate rose 5.1 percentage points, reaching its peak at 10.7% in late 2009. From November 2007 to November 2009, the state lost more than 90,000 jobs. Since then, the unemployment rate has declined to 8.4%, while the total number of jobs in October exceeded 1.9 million for the first time since July 2008. Earnings also remained low in the state. The average worker was paid just under $700 per week in October, among the lowest average weekly earnings in the U.S.

Also Read: The Best Housing Markets for 2013

18. Wisconsin
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.3 percentage points (tied-15th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 9.2%
> Current unemployment: 6.9% (tied-21st lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.1% (25th lowest)

At its peak in June 2009, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 9.2%, after a loss of 108,000 jobs from November 2007. Since then, the state has had little job growth, with a shrinking labor force helping the unemployment rate fall 2.3 percentage points from its peak to 6.9% in October. In early 2010, while campaigning for office, Governor Scott Walker announced an “ambitious plan to bring 250,000 jobs and 10,000 new businesses to Wisconsin by 2015.” Politicifact has tracked Walker’s promise, noting that the governor still has to add over 200,000 jobs to meet this goal. According to the BLS, from January 2011, when Walker was sworn in, through October 2012, the number of people employed in Wisconsin rose by just 16,000.

19. Massachusetts
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.1 percentage points (tied-19th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.7%
> Current unemployment: 6.6% (tied-16th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 2.2% (7th highest)

In November 2007, Massachusetts’ unemployment rate was just 4.5%. By October 2009, the rate had risen to 8.9%. As of October, the state’s recovery had erased half that increase, bringing Massachusetts’ unemployment rate to 6.6%. In those three years Massachusetts added 83,000 jobs. As of October, some industries still had not recovered, and the state is still down more than 30,000 jobs in both construction and manufacturing since late 2007. Many residents have also continued to struggle, with the number of caseloads in the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program rising by more than 200,000 over the previous four years.

20. North Carolina
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.1 percentage points (tied-19th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 11.4%
> Current unemployment: 9.3% (5th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.8% (15th highest)

North Carolina had one of the nation’s highest increases in unemployment during the recession. The unemployment rate rose 6.5 percentage points between November 2007 and January 2010. In that time, the state lost nearly 230,000 jobs, many of which it has since recovered. In all, between November 2007 and October 2011, the number of employed workers in the state fell by just 30,000 — although, the unemployment rate remained among the highest in the U.S. because the labor force grew by 4.2% in that time. Certain metro areas in the state have fared especially poorly. The unemployment rate in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton area was 10% in October, while Rocky Mount’s unemployment rate was 11.7% — among the worst in the nation.