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

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21. Mississippi
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.0 percentage points (tied-21st highest)
> Peak unemployment: 10.9%
> Current unemployment: 8.9% (8th highest)
> GDP growth 2011:  -0.8% (2nd lowest)

In November 2007, Mississippi had the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate at 6.2%. As of October, the state’s unemployment rate of 8.9% was the eighth highest in the U.S. In that time, the labor force grew by 30,000 people, an increase of 2.4%. However, the number of jobs in Mississippi has yet to recover from the recession as there were roughly 8,000 fewer employed workers in October 2012 than in November 2007. While weekly earnings rose by 15.6% over that time — one of the highest increases in the U.S. — the average worker made just $675 per week, the second-lowest weekly earnings of any state.

22. Washington
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.0 percentage points (tied-21st highest)
> Peak unemployment: 10.2%
> Current unemployment: 8.2% (tied-16th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 2.0% (11th highest)

According to a Seattle Times report, the Northwest region was hurt more during this recession than it had been in any postwar economic downturn, including when Boeing moved its headquarters from the area and during the dot-com bust of the early 2000s. In this recession, the number of unemployed people in the state more than doubled, from 158,000 in November 2007 to more than 360,000 by February 2010. As of October, there were still well over 100,000 more people without jobs in Washington than there were before the recession hit. For those who still had jobs, however, average weekly earnings rose from $851, the fourth highest in the country, to $934, the second highest, during that time.

Also Read: The World’s Most and Least Livable Cities

23. Idaho
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.9 percentage points (tied-23rd highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.9%
> Current unemployment: 7.0% (24th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.6% (18th lowest)

In November 2007, there were less than 25,000 unemployed people in the small state of Idaho. Three years later, that figure was two and a half times larger. Similarly, going into the recession, Idaho had the ninth-lowest unemployment rate in the country. As of October, the rate had more than doubled to 7%, the 24th lowest. One bright spot for the state is its housing market. Home prices in Idaho rose by 8.7% between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012, the second-largest increase in the country. Fiserv projects home prices will grow an additional 4.7% by the second quarter of 2013, the largest expected increase in the country. Earnings have also exploded in the state, with weekly earnings rising by more than 20% from the beginning of the recession through October — the third-largest increase in the country.

24. Oklahoma
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.9 percentage points (tied-23rd highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.2%
> Current unemployment: 5.3% (7th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.0% (22nd lowest)

Oklahoma’s highest unemployment rate during the recession was just 7.2%, which it reached in December 2009. In October 2012, nearly three years later, the unemployment rate had fallen to 5.3%. While the labor market was impacted by the recession, the state’s housing market avoided the collapses seen in much of the nation. Between the second quarters of 2007 and 2012, home prices in Oklahoma increased by 3%, making it one of just five states where home prices rose in that time.

25. Kansas
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.9 percentage points (tied-23rd highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.6%
> Current unemployment: 5.7% (tied-10th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.5% (16th lowest)

In October, the unemployment rate in Kansas was 5.7%, down less than two percentage points from its high during the recession, which it reached in July 2009. Since then, the state has added less than 2,000 jobs. The state has also had mediocre economic growth in the last three years, underperforming more than half of all states, as well as the U.S. overall. However, a recent publication from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City highlighted declining unemployment claims, and noted “that a net 5 percent of firms in Kansas … plan to hire during the fourth quarter of 2012” as evidence of an improving labor market. One source of employment in recent months was aircraft manufacturing, which had an 8.3% increase in employment between October 2011 and October 2012, according to the Wichita Eagle. The industry is crucial to Kansas. According to the state’s Department of Commerce, Wichita “is the aviation capital of the world, with 50 percent of domestic commercial aircraft and 40 percent of global aircraft produced in the city.”

26. Georgia
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.8 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 10.5%
> Current unemployment: 8.7% (tied-10th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.7% (16th highest)

From November 2007 to October 2012, Georgia lost more than 225,000 jobs, or 5% of the total number of jobs — worse than all but four states. The collapse of the state’s housing market during the recession was well chronicled and included a loss of more than 75,000 construction jobs from November 2007 to October 2012. Even after the job market improved, home values continued to fall. From the second quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2012, home prices declined by 15.6% — more than all but one state. Also, over the 12 months ending in the second quarter of 2012, home prices fell by 12.3% — the biggest decline in the nation.

27. Delaware
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.7 percentage points (tied-27th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.5%
> Current unemployment: 6.8% (20th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.6% (17th highest)

Delaware was not the most severely hit state during the recession, nor did things go better than most states. From its peak in January 2010, the state’s unemployment rate has fallen by 1.7 percentage points, a mediocre improvement compared to the other 49 states. Since the beginning of the recession, the state’s labor force has shrunk by just over 1%. In the majority of states, the labor force grew during that time. One piece of good news for the state is that its GDP has grown since 2009 even though the national GDP was still contracting at the time.

Also Read: The 10 Markets with the Most Empty Homes

28. New Mexico
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.7 percentage points (tied-27th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.0%
> Current unemployment: 6.3% (15th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.2% (10th lowest)

More than 900,000 people were employed in New Mexico in November 2007. By October 2012, that number had fallen to 867,422 — a 4.35% decline, which was one of the nation’s largest. The state has yet to fully recover from the recession. Although New Mexico’s real GDP actually rose by 0.73% in 2009 — when GDP in the U.S. fell by 3.76% — its growth rate has not kept-pace with the rest of the nation since then. New Mexico’s GDP rose just 1.2% in 2010 and just 0.2% in 2011, while the U.S. economy as a whole grew 3.1% and 1.5% in those years. Last year, 21.5% of the state’s population lived below the poverty line, the second-highest rate in the country. A study from the Urban Institute and First Focus noted that New Mexico had the highest child poverty rate in the nation last year at 31% — up 5 percentage points from before the recession.

29. Vermont
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.7 percentage points (tied-27th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.2%
> Current unemployment: 5.5% (tied-8th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.5% (13th lowest)

Going into the recession, Vermont had the 19th-lowest unemployment rate in the country at 4%. As of October, it had the ninth-lowest unemployment rate at 5.5%. At its worst point, during April to June 2009, unemployment was at 7.2%, tied for the eighth-lowest peak recession unemployment rate. While employment has been stable in the state, wage increases have been only middling compared to most states. However, on New Year’s Day, the state will increase the minimum wage by 14 cents to $8.60.

30. Hawaii
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.6 percentage points (tied-30th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.1%
> Current unemployment: 5.5% (tied-8th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: -0.2% (6th lowest)

In November 2007, Hawaii had a 3% unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the U.S. at the time. Just under two years later, in June 2009, unemployment peaked at 7.1% as the number of unemployed people in the workforce rose from less than 20,000 to more than 45,000. Since 2009, when Hawaii’s GDP contracted by 4.6%, the state’s economy has scarcely improved. In both 2010 and 2011, the GDP growth rate was among the lowest in the nation. Still, as of October, the state’s unemployment rate of 5.5% was one of the lowest in the U.S. The state has also had weekly earnings rise 15% from November 2007 to October 2012 — the ninth-highest increase in the nation.