Fueled by the shale oil boom, almost everyone in North Dakota has a job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in state during May was 2.6%. Several other states have rates under 4%, as the jobs recovery spreads across large portions of the country. In other places, unemployment levels remain unusually high.
The plains states have gotten the best of it. They are sparsely populated, and many rely on just one or two successful industries that have stayed economically healthy. The jobless rate in South Dakota was 3.8% in May. In Nebraska the number was 3.6%, in Utah, 3.6%, in Idaho, 4.9%, and in Wyoming, 3.8%. The only other pocket of low joblessness was in the far Northeast. The unemployment rate in Vermont in May was 3.3% and in New Hampshire, 4.4%. Again the populations of the states are low.
The old industrial states have not fared nearly as well. Against a national unemployment rate of 6.3%, several states are more than a point higher than that. Michigan was among them at 7.5%. And in Detroit, the rate was 8.2%. The city has lost half its population since 1950 and now stands at about 700,000 — mostly due to trouble in the car industry. The unemployment rate in Illinois was 7.5%, driven to some extent by much higher joblessness in its older manufacturing cities, south and east of Chicago. The jobless rate in Rhode Island, which once had a mostly manufacturing economy, was at 8.2%. And the state with the highest population and most diverse economy, California, was at 7.6%. In some cities in the central valley of the state — the economy dominated by agriculture and currently plagued by drought — the rates are in the double digits.
Finally, the agency reported, in sum:
Regional and state unemployment rates were generally little changed in May. Twenty states had unemployment rate decreases from April, 16 states had increases, and 14 states and the District of Columbia had no change, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier and one state had an increase. The national jobless rate held at 6.3 percent in May but was 1.2 percentage points lower than in May 2013.